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The Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) is an annual survey conducted during the last 10 days in January to estimate the number of unsheltered individuals in New York City. Each year thousands of volunteers are needed to canvass areas across the city to survey people about their housing status.

HOPE is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to receive funding under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Using a consistent sampling methodology since 2005 and decoys as a quality control measure, HOPE remains one of the most methodologically rigorous efforts nationwide to estimate the number of individuals who are experiencing street homelessness.

HOPE volunteers register for a HOPE site among the many across the city. On the night of HOPE, volunteers arrive at their site by 10pm (or designated time) and are assigned to teams. Teams are deployed to canvass their assigned areas and survey individuals the team encounters via an app on their phone. A brief survey is designed to assess each person’s housing situation and teams offer transportation to shelter to any individuals seeking services. Canvassing can last until 4am at which time teams will contact their site leader to check out before going home.

Because of HOPE, we are able to get a clearer picture of the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in New York City, which helps us better connect individuals to assistance.