On February 9th, I along with several of my classmates participated in the HOPE Count. Each year, the NYC Department of Homeless Services conducts its annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE), in order to get an accurate estimate of the number of unsheltered homeless living in NYC. The HOPE Count is held during the winter in order to get an idea of the number of homeless who do not have a place to sleep for the night even on one of the coldest nights of the year. After an hour long training at PS41, various groups were assigned districts throughout lower Manhattan. The survey relies on volunteers asking every person they encounter whether or not they had a place to sleep that night. My group consisted of myself, Ben Frisch, Philippe Noisy, and Liam Cook, and we had a total of five districts to survey, including a subway station. After hours of scouring the streets and asking dozens of people questions, our group ended up with the highest number of reported homeless. Statistics is very important in a project such as this because the NYC Department of Homeless Services is reliant on the data that we accumulate throughout the night. We provide them with a statistic that allows them to paint a picture of homelessness in the city.
In the book To Kill a Mockingbird, lawyer Atticus Finch imparts wise words to his daughter, Scout, saying, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”. Homelessness often feels like a myth. People know that there are people without a home, but I feel that not many people are aware of how much of a problem homelessness really is. After doing the HOPE Count, I was confronted with homelessness face to face. I met various homeless people throughout the night and had to ask them several questions, some quite personal. To be honest, it was kind of depressing. However, the biggest takeaway is knowing that I was able to help the city and its efforts to help homeless people. There was also the option for a van to come and pick up any homeless person we encountered and bring them to a shelter (although none I encountered accepted this offer). I believe that we all need to become more aware about homelessness in the city and what we can do to help those in need, especially since homelessness is on the rise.