DHS

Milton St Homeless Respite Meeting Recap

On Thursday 1/24, a crowd of nearly forty Greenpointers gathered at Greenpoint Church to discuss the recently opened Homeless Respite. Pastor Ann asked that all press and bloggers reveal the publication and keep off the record comments off the record. It was a neighborly forum and while the night had some very difficult and uncomfortable moments, important progress was made.

(For the record, no one spoke off the record, but I did not directly quote or identify residents.)

First and most importantly, ten homeless men, our neighbors, would sleep in warm beds on an 18 degree night without the risk of freezing to death. This is a good thing.

Second, issues of communication, a big concern for Milton St residents, was discussed (loudly, with some yelling) and promises were made for improvement. More open meetings to discuss the impact of the church’s services on the residents of Milton St will be scheduled.

When it was my turn to introduce myself, I said, “I am in attendance first as a member of the church and next representing Greenpointers.” I write this blog post from the same position. I am not an unbiased reporter. I openly support the efforts the church makes to care for those who would otherwise be left to go hungry or sleep in the cold. That being said I will do my best to be sympathetic to the residents of Milton St who are opposed to the shelter and share the burden as well. Continue reading

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Counting Our Homeless – An Annual Controversy

Each year, in the dead of winter, the Department of Homeless Services sends volunteers – as many as 2,000- to less-than-scenic neighborhoods around the city to do a hand-count of the city’s homeless population. This year’s survey, on January 28, 2013, will require 3,000 volunteers, and they are currently recruiting. If you’re interested in issues of homelessness in Greenpoint, I highly recommend volunteering if only to get a glimpse at the internal workings of the city’s homeless outreach machinery.

The controversy over these counts largely concerns the timing of the survey and where volunteers are looking. It is intentionally conducted late at night at the end of January, an unpleasant time to be on the street, and specifically skips pseudo-private locations favored by the homeless such as ATM vestibules.  Groups such as Coalition for the Homeless believe that the result is “a flawed effort that, year after year, has resulted in a significant undercount of New York City’s homeless population.”  The implication is clear: the survey undercounts by design, masking the problem. However, according to the survey’s designers, it is intended to provide a street-level estimate of those individuals who are truly homeless, those who do not even make it to shelters on one of the coldest nights of the year, and thus expects a smaller number to be found.

To their credit, DHS does an excellent job of creating a methodology that answers their primary question without being too perplexing to the relatively untrained surveyors. However, while I was performing the survey, there was still a significant amount of deviation from the method on the part of my fellow volunteers. Their directions call for each group to make one pass along each side of each street in a given area, administering a short survey to anyone encountered.  However, my group found it impossible to resist the temptation to call across the street to passers-by, for example- while this was done in the spirit of making the count as inclusive as possible, it undermined its accuracy as a statistical sample by effectively surveying areas twice. Opponents of these surveys also include the variability introduced by these sorts of errors and the failure to adjust counts accordingly among their complaints.

Still, especially now that homelessness has become a major local issue, I think the experience of participating in the survey is valuable even if the data generated is more questionable. You can review the informational materials and sign up here: 2013 HOPE homelessness survey

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HOPE 2012 SURVEY NEEDS VOLUNTEERS

Greenpoint has a very evident street homeless population. It is important for the city to understand how many homeless people are living in our neighborhood to evaluate how effective their strategies are. Polish speaking volunteers are especially needed.

Email from DHS:

“The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) conducts the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) survey, every year to find a point-in-time estimate of the number of unsheltered homeless individuals in New York City. This year HOPE will take place on Monday, January 30, 2012.

DHS needs 3,000 volunteers to make HOPE 2012 a success, and the participation of our fellow city colleagues is very important. I encourage those who have volunteered before to sign up again, and for first-time volunteers to experience how truly gratifying a night of HOPE can be. Volunteers commit to assist us overnight on Monday, January 30, 2012 from 10:30 pm until 4:00 am.

HOPE is critical to helping DHS evaluate the effectiveness of our current strategies to overcome street homelessness as well as developing appropriate housing resources for the most vulnerable New Yorkers currently living without shelter. HOPE’s methodology has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as the gold standard and I am proud to say that this is in large part due to your help.

Registration for HOPE can be found on the DHS homepage, at www.nyc.gov/dhs, or CityShare. Questions regarding this event can also be sent to the HOPE Team at HOPE@dhs.nyc.gov or by calling 212-607-5366.”

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