The city’s annual homeless count is Jan. 25, but local leaders say the dead-of-winter tally totally fails in coastal communities, where the homeless population ebbs in the winter and flows in the summer, and are calling on the city tabulators to comes back in warm months. Community board members fear the low reckoning may mean less street-level homeless services when warm weather draws vagrants to the neighborhoods’ boardwalks and commercial strips, one member and business leader said.
“The homeless are seasonal — during the summertime — so usually, when they come and do the homeless count in January, there’s nobody here,” said Yelena Makhnin, director of the Brighton Beach Business Improvement District. “In our district — a coastal area — we are definitely, 100-percent under-served, because the real number of homeless you can’t see until the spring and summer.”
But the federally mandated Hope survey aims to catch the chronically homeless — those out amid the year’s coldest days — and community leaders can count on the city’s mostly volunteer tabulators to tell the homeless from those who are just out on the street, a spokeswoman said.
“Not everyone on our city’s streets are homeless, and the annual Hope count is a federally required, annual count helping to assess those living on our street who are chronically homeless,” said Department of Homeless Services spokeswoman Nicole Cueto.
The mayor’s recently unveiled Home Stat initiative includes quarterly homeless counts and additional outreach citywide, she said.
But the city relies on the Hope survey to estimate neighborhoods’ homeless populations and to help determine where to focus outreach teams who help the indigent find housing, the spokeswoman said.
Basing year-round policy on numbers that seem to swing from season to season doesn’t add up in Brooklyn’s beach neighborhoods, another leader said.
“For us, it doesn’t tell the whole story,” said Community Board 13 district manager Eddie Mark.