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New York Leaving People Out Of Homeless Count

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City could be leaving some people out of its homeless count.

The Department of Homeless Services distributed instructions Monday night to 3,000 volunteers taking part in the mandated homeless outreach population estimate, known as the "Hope Count."

The volunteers were specifically instructed to "only survey public spaces, not private establishments, like fast food restaurants or bank lobbies."

Because of these rules, a homeless man CBS2 found at Harlem hospital would be counted, but a man panhandling in a Midtown fast food restaurant would not.

Steven Banks, human resources administration commissioner, told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez he recognizes there needs to be a change in how the homeless are counted.

"Again we're using a mechanism that has been developed and put in place for many years. It's been reviewed by HUD, but we want to do more than that," Banks said.

The city told CBS2 that Mayor Bill de Blasio's HOME-STAT initiative will make the difference with more regular and ongoing homeless counts.

"We want to take an approach that addresses all the people that are on the streets and get accurate information about who's there," Banks said.

New York will begin a new series of homeless counts beginning in March.

"Numbers speak loudest, so if we do collect statistics to show there is a serious problem of homelessness, then hopefully we'd be able to sway policy makers to be more proactive," Jake Kahoe of the homeless count told CBS2.

New York's homeless count guidelines have been in place since 2005.

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