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Advocates Dispute Claims Of Fewer Homeless On NYC Streets This Year

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that new data shows a 12 percent drop in the number of people living on the streets.

But as CBS2's Ali Bauman reported, homeless advocates said the report is misleading.

The city's Homeless Outreach Population Estimate, or HOPE, indicated that nearly 400 fewer people were sleeping on the streets this year compared with last year.

"What's really great is that we're helping so many people," said Jody Rudin, deputy commissioner for adult services for the New York City Department of Homeless Services. "Our outreach teams are now working with the over 2,000 people who are sleeping on the streets."

But some homeless advocates said that number cannot be valid, since the survey only counts people visibly on the streets. They said the number discounts anyone spending the night in places like subway cars or all-night restaurants.

"You see the people you want to see in the places you will go in," said shelter program manager Delon Ali.

Ali spent 10 years living on the street. The city survey was taken one night in February – a time Ali said homeless people avoid the streets any way they can.

He spent his night on the subway.

"There's people who live in abandoned buildings and on rooftops, who actually hide from society so they may have a place to stay," Ali said.

At the Bowery Mission, a Lower East Side shelter, management said they are much more in demand during the winter – and their 250 beds are not counted in the city survey.

"The city counted 2,800 people on the streets, but the city's also housing 60,000 people in shelters," said Bowery Mission chief development officer James Winans.

City officials said it is not about how many they are counting, but how many they are helping.

"So we're not only looking now at the HOPE count, but we've added quarterly counts, daily canvassing and most importantly, a ton of services for this population," Rudin said, "because at the end of the day, what's most important is we're helping people rather than counting people."

The city's first quarterly night street count is scheduled to begin in May. More than 4,000 people were counted during the city's first street homeless survey in 2005.

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