By Sabina Mollot
As affordable housing continues to disappear in New York City, homeless encampments on the street are on the rise, one study is showing.
RealtyHop, a house and condo sales listings website, has released a report that tracked encampments throughout the city in each neighborhood based on 311 data and the most recent annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Based on the stats, in total, 5,120 encampment complaints were reported from October 2017 to September 2018, 11 percent more than the previous year. The results also show that encampments are mostly a Manhattan problem, with Midtown-Midtown South having it worse than any other neighborhood in the borough. That said, the problem does seem to be on the decline in that area with 402 complaints, which, while extreme, is 201 fewer (half the number) than what was reported in 2017. Another homeless hotspot is the West Village, with 275 complaints in 2017 and 260 reported in 2018 as of October 31. The numbers get lower as neighborhoods get farther away from the city center.
The study had a formula that “de-dupes” or ignores duplicate complaints (more than one from one address on the same day).
Some local stats based on a map available online at realtyhop.com include:
Midtown-Midtown South had 703 complaints of encampments in 2017, 401 in 2018 as of October 31. The most commonly called about address in this area has been 461 Park Avenue South (at East 31st Street) with 16 complaints.
Murray Hill and Kips Bay, listed together, had a total of 205 calls in 2017, 150 in 2018 as of October 31. In Murray Hill, a top address is 166 East 34th Street with 18 encampment complaints.
Chelsea, Flatiron and Union Square, grouped together, had 240 complaints in 2017, 215 in 2018 as of October 31. However, no one location was reported as being a hotspot.
Gramercy had 83 in 2017, 64 in 2018 as of October 31. A top reported address was 40 Irving Place with 20 complaints.
In the East Village, in 2017, 189 encampment complaints were made, in 2018, 169 as of October 31. A total of 19 encampment complaints were reported at 170 Second Avenue at East 11th Street.
Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village had just three reports in 2017 and the same in 2018 as of October 31.
Along with Manhattan, some Brooklyn neighborhoods have also seen a growing problem with encampments. The data shows an increase in calls in Stuyvesant Heights, East Williamsburg, Dumbo-Vinegar Hill, downtown Brooklyn-Boerum Hill and Prospect Heights.
An encampment could consist of a homeless individual with his or her bags, blankets, or in some cases, more than that. It can also be unsheltered homeless person living on the street, or a more organized arrangement with multiple homeless people and their belongings.
Meanwhile, according to the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the number of street homeless is actually shrinking, not growing, at least as of January.
Asked about the RealtyHop study, the department referred to an announcement in June that reported the federally mandated Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) street homeless survey conducted on January 22, 2018 found that 3,675 homeless individuals were on the streets of New York that night. This was six percent less than last year and 16 percent fewer than the first count in 2005.
The DHS also noted that its HOME-STAT (Homeless Outreach & Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams) program, in which hundreds of staffers canvas the streets to seek out homeless individuals and offer services, has also gotten significant results. Through the program, 1,815 New Yorkers have gotten off the streets and into permanent or transitional housing, according to DHS data.
The HOPE study, the department said, reflects what the HOME-STAT outreach teams have been seeing on the ground.
“Homelessness didn’t occur overnight and it won’t be solved overnight,” said DHS deputy press secretary Arianna Fishman, “but our city’s comprehensive strategies to transform a haphazard system that has built up over decades are taking hold and heading in the right direction, with the shelter census remaining flat for the first time in over a decade. We remain undeterred in our efforts to engage individuals experiencing street homelessness proactively until we make the connection that will help them transition off the streets.”
New York City, unlike three other large cities that were looked at as part of the study, had its own pattern of when encampments increase or decrease, which were weather related. In the winter, the numbers unsurprisingly go way down, and spike in the summer. Additionally, New York’s encampment problem isn’t as bad as it is in other cities. The study also looked at Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas.