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Press Release

August 16, 2020


  • Isaac McGinn,
  • Arianna Fishman,
  • Neha Sharma,
  • Ian Martin,

January 2020 Survey Estimates 23 Percent Decrease in Unsheltered Homelessness on the Subways

Results of January 2020 survey consistent with data gathered by outreach teams, show signs of progress on the subways and more work to be done on the streets

NEW YORK— The Department of Homeless Services today announced that the federally mandated Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) Survey of unsheltered homelessness in New York City, conducted on January 27, 2020, found that 23 percent fewer individuals were experiencing unsheltered homelessness on the subways that January night than one year prior. Citywide, on the streets and subways together, the Survey found that there were an estimated 3,857 individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness, seven-percent more than the prior year and twelve-percent fewer than the first HOPE Survey conducted in 2005. These estimates continue to align with and confirm what the City's HOME-STAT outreach teams have been seeing on the ground, and underscore the positive preliminary results of intensified subway outreach strategies implemented over the past year-and-a-half and expanded during the pandemic. In total, since the launch of the HOME-STAT program in 2016, through persistent and compassionate outreach efforts, HOME-STAT outreach teams have helped nearly 2,900 New Yorkers experiencing unsheltered homelessness come off the streets and subways into transitional and permanent settings.

"Since we launched the most comprehensive outreach program in the country four years ago, we have helped more than 2,800 New Yorkers off the streets,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will continue to do everything we can to take this progress further and help every last person experiencing long-term homelessness find their path home.”

"New Yorkers experiencing homelessness on the streets and subways are our family members, friends and neighbors, and I thank everyone involved in this annual effort to make sure all individuals count,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Raul Perea-Henze. “The results confirm that our effort to reach those experiencing homelessness on the subways is making progress. While we must continue to work until every New Yorker experiencing homelessness receives the assistance they need and deserve, each of the nearly 2,900 people helped off the streets and subways since 2016 represents a victory for compassion and persistence.”

“The 2020 HOPE Survey confirms that by January of this year, we were beginning to see some preliminarily encouraging results from our intensified subway efforts, while on the streets we know there is more work to do,” said Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “We’re confident that the array of new transitional and permanent housing tools and expanded efforts announced right before we conducted this year’s Survey will help us take this progress further, with new outreach staff and new specialized beds coming online over the past several months since and helping hundreds of additional New Yorkers transition off the streets.  All of these efforts build on the core HOME-STAT program that has made it possible for nearly 2,900 human beings to come in off the streets and into transitional and permanent settings.”

Key Survey Context: Global Economic and Environmental Variables

The federally-mandated point-in-time estimate is subject to external factors that may vary year to year, such as weather conditions. When the weather is colder, for example, there tend to be fewer individuals surveyed on the night of HOPE, and the opposite when the weather is warmer. To that end, the January 2020 HOPE Survey was conducted during an exceptionally mild winter in New York City, at 40 degrees on the night the survey was conducted, with no snowfall in the preceding 30 days. Comparatively, in 2019, it was 28 degrees on the night the survey was conducted, with some snowfall in the preceding 30 days, while in 2018, there had been ten inches of snowfall in the preceding 30 days.

The annual Survey also takes place amid a continued housing affordability crisis in New York and across the nation, with economic factors, such as rents rising faster income, continuing to drive homelessness. Between 2005 and 2015, median household income in New York City increased by just 4.8% in real dollars while the median rent increased by 18.3% in real dollars. At the same time, New York City experienced a net loss of over 150,000 rent-stabilized units citywide between 1994 and 2012. While the city’s overall rental vacancy rate of 3.5 percent poses challenges for people of all incomes, renters who are only able to afford an apartment costing $800 or less must find housing in a market with a vacancy rate of just 1.15 percent as of 2017––an even tighter rate than the 1.8 percent found in 2014.

Key Outreach Progress: Addressing Unsheltered Homelessness with Subway Focus and New Tools

Survey results from January 2020 are consistent with data gathered by outreach teams on the ground year-round, corroborating preliminary signs of progress on the subways.

  • In 2019, the City increased outreach on the subways, with a focus on high-activity and end-of-line stations. In some instances, individuals successfully engaged on the subways may not have accepted shelter services, but may have engaged an outreach team and as a result may be less entrenched and more willing to accept help another time.
  • Outreach teams keep coming back to engage these individuals where they are, to build on the relationship/progress made.
  • In total, since the launch of the HOME-STAT program in 2016, outreach teams have helped nearly 2,900 New Yorkers living unsheltered on the streets and subways come off the streets and subways into safe, stable housing.

Since the HOPE survey was conducted in last winter, the City has hired more outreach staff, provided outreach teams with new tools, and opened hundreds more specialized beds for unsheltered New Yorkers. 

  • In 2014, there were 600 beds citywide 
  • By January 2020, there were more than 1,800
  • Since January 2020, another 800 opened, including in commercial hotel locations, which are already helping hundreds of unsheltered New Yorkers get back on their feet since the January Survey, with hundreds more opening in the coming months and years
  • As a result of these efforts, during the overnight subway shutdown so far more than 400 people have accepted services, come inside, and still remain in shelter

These vital new resources and additional reforms to strengthen and streamline outreach, such as expedited shelter placement, including into specialized stabilization beds, for any individuals interested in coming inside off the subways, will take these results further. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing unsheltered homelessness and we continue to refine, hone, and adjust efforts based on what outreach teams learn first-hand. 

Outreach teams understand that it can take hundreds of engagements to establish the trust that encourages someone to accept services, which must be voluntary. Together, the City and not-for-profit outreach service provider partners remain undeterred in the ongoing effort to engage unsheltered New Yorkers proactively, offering services and support, until making those breakthroughs. 

New Yorkers who see individuals they believe to be experiencing homeless and in need of assistance should contact 3-1-1 via phone or mobile app and request outreach assistance for the most immediate response.

“This year's HOPE Survey results reflect what our HOME-STAT outreach teams see in their round-the-clock outreach efforts: our innovative strategies are taking hold on the subways and there is more work to be done to build the trust needed to help New Yorkers living on the streets come indoors,” said Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter. "“This Administration has made historic investments to support New Yorkers who have fallen through every social safety net—tripling the number of outreach staff, quadrupling the number of dedicated beds for New Yorkers experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and helping nearly 2,900 of those New Yorkers into safe, stable housing. We will continue bringing new tools to bear as we address this citywide and national challenge, knowing that each individual who accepts services is a victory in their own right." 

“As the lead of the Manhattan Street Outreach Consortium, we are proud of our team’s accomplishments. In 2019, we placed hundreds of people experiencing homelessness into housing,” said Tony Hannigan, President and CEO, Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS).  “Throughout 2020, despite the pandemic, our staffs have been on the street for New York’s most vulnerable.”

“Breaking Ground outreach teams are on the streets every day, 24/7 to connect with people experiencing homelessness and help each individual navigate toward housing solutions,” said Brenda Rosen, President and CEO, Breaking Ground. “Despite the new challenges that COVID-19 has imposed on all of us this year, our teams continue to work with clients, offering tailored services that meet them where they are. We know that permanent housing is the best solution for ending homelessness. Breaking Ground is constantly working to expand the number of permanent and supportive housing resources available for those who need a stable, affordable home with onsite health care services.”

"Together with our colleagues, we are committed to helping the New Yorkers most in need secure suitable housing that allows them to do all the other things necessary to improve their lives," said Roderick L. Jones, Ed.D, Executive Director, Goddard Riverside.

"Every year, the HOPE survey helps remind us that there is more work to be done in the fight to end homelessness in the borough of the Bronx. The work is challenging, but immensely important and requiring consistent effort and dedication," said Juan Rivera, Homeless Outreach Team Program Director, BronxWorks. "BronxWorks remains committed to the task, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The BronxWorks outreach teams remain fully operational; checking in with the most vulnerable and providing PPE and vital safety information. Together with our partners at DHS, BronxWorks looks forward to obtaining more transitional and permanent housing so as to enhance the lives of those individuals who continue to experience homelessness." 

"While unsheltered homelessness is the product of economic inequity and housing instability across the City and country, we remain determined to reach out to our neighbors in need, offer them life saving services and healthcare, and help them transition indoors to stability," said Reverend Dr. Terry Troia, President and CEO, Project Hospitality.

“These results demonstrate that the additional resources invested in BRC’s work by DHS are paying off. Increased focus on subway outreach and close collaboration between DHS and service providers made this achievement possible,” said Muzzy Rosenblatt, President and CEO, Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC). “This approach is both effective and necessary, particularly as we continue to serve New York’s most vulnerable in these unprecedented times.”


About the New York City Department of Homeless Services:
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) works to prevent homelessness before it occurs, address street homelessness and assist homeless New Yorkers in transitioning from shelter and the street to permanent housing. DHS collaborates with not-for profit partners to provide temporary shelter and services that homeless New Yorkers need to achieve and maintain housing permanency. In April 2016, Mayor de Blasio announced a major restructuring of homeless services in New York City, followed by the release of a comprehensive plan in February 2017 to turn the tide on homelessness, neighborhood by neighborhood. The plan’s guiding principle is community and people first; giving homeless New Yorkers, who come from every community across the five boroughs, the opportunity to be sheltered closer to their support networks and anchors of life in the communities they called home in order to more quickly stabilize their lives. Learn more about how DHS is turning the tide on homelessness, neighborhood by neighborhood, at

About the City's HOME-STAT Program:
The most comprehensive street outreach program in the nation, HOME-STAT (Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams) focuses on connecting individuals living on the street, who each have a unique path to the streets, with the unique combination of services that will enable them to transition off the streets. All street homeless outreach teams have licensed clinicians who work with clients on the streets. In addition to receiving on-going case management, people are assessed for immediate risk/crisis during each encounter. The teams also have psychiatrists who perform psychiatric evaluations on the streets and thereby help us understand and better meet the individual needs of each street homeless New Yorker. These clinicians and psychiatrists help our outreach teams connect with street homeless individuals who may be difficult to engage. Many have fallen through every available safety net, and experience trauma and challenges, including mental health and substance use challenges that may make outreach more complicated. Accepting outreach efforts, including services that will help homeless New Yorkers transition indoors from the streets, is voluntary, but we remain undeterred in our efforts to engage them proactively and aggressively, and offering assistance and services, until we make the connection that will help them transition off the streets. Our teams continue to reach out to these New Yorkers to offer services and help them come indoors. HOME-STAT also provides aftercare services, continuing to work with individuals who receive placements to ensure that they receive the support they need to remain in housing and off of the street.