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Number of people living on NYC streets on the rise, survey shows. Here's how advocates are trying to help.

Survey shows rise in number of people living on New York City streets
Survey shows rise in number of people living on New York City streets 02:10

NEW YORK -- A new report shows the number of people who are experiencing homelessness and living on New York City streets continues to go up.

Advocates say it's much easier to track the number of homeless New Yorkers in shelters than those on the street.

Volunteers try to help track number of New Yorkers living on the street

Each year on a cold night in January, as part of a federal mandatory count, thousands of volunteers take part in HOPE -- the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate.

"You find people on church steps, synagogue steps, in the street, maybe looking disheveled, and then you ask them if they're homeless," New York City Councilmember Gale Brewer said.

This year, according to the survey, there were an estimated 4,140 homeless residents who had nowhere to seek shelter, compared to last year's count of 4,042.

"What we've seen is essentially a doubling of the number of people experiencing homelessness in shelters and the flat numbers on the street," said New York City Department of Social Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park. "Do we want that flat number to be lower? Absolutely we do."

Data from the United States Department of Housing shows in 2023, 70% of the homeless population in Los Angeles was unsheltered, compared to only 5% of New York City's homeless population.

Homeless advocates in NYC call for permanent housing plan

Volunteers with the Coalition for the Homeless hand out hundreds of meals every night, specifically to those living on the street.

David Giffen started volunteering in 1988; now, he's the executive director.

"There are thousands of people who are sleeping unsheltered every night. Right now there's another roughly 147,000 people in the shelter system," he said.

Brewer says despite the arrival of 200,000 asylum seekers arriving in New York City -- 65,000 still in its care -- she believes the people living on the street are a different demographic.

"Not migrants. I think most of them are regular New Yorkers," she said.

Advocates say the most effective solution is permanent housing.

"Put pressure on the elected officials to come up with an actual effective housing plan," Giffen said.

Officials says if someone is concerned about the health and safety of an individual who appears to be living on the street, they can call 311 to reach a dispatch team.

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