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Dozens Of Homeless New Yorkers Finding Refuge At Midtown Encampments

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There are a lot of homeless people on the streets on New York, which has lead some to wonder if the city's homeless problem is growing.

CBS2 found one homeless hangout right in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan. For Thomas Decoteau, the area most known for the hustle and bustle of daily life in the Big Apple is simply known as the quiet zone.

"We recycle all day, doing bottles and cans and when it gets nighttime and really dark we just come here and crash out," he said.

The stretch along Broadway near 40th Street is relatively safe and quiet compared to other parts of the city.

"This is where you can come to relax and you're gonna be amongst homeless people who aren't gonna rob, aren't gonna steal from you," Decoteau said.

Occupants say they typically get to the space around midnight every night and sleep surrounded by around 25 other homeless people. Decoteau has been sleeping in the Midtown oasis for years, and says outreach workers check on him every night. He's still there because the city has labeled his street home a temporary pop up location, not an encampment. Only encampments may be forcibly removed.

By the city's definition, encampments have a visible physical structure that's difficult to move. Decoteau estimates there are upwards of 100 people staying along the space stretching from 39th to 35th Streets. The Department of Homeless Services refused to discuss the so-called pop up, but insisted last week the homeless situation is under control.

"By doubling the number of outreach workers that are out there 24/7 in all five boroughs and in the subways, by tripling the number of special beds, that's how we're beginning to turn the tide on a problem that's built up over many, many years," Commissioner Steven Banks said.

The city says it has helped get more than 1,800 homeless New Yorkers off the streets since 2016.

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