The percentage of homeless to overall city population in Los Angeles is the highest in the nation. Perhaps this is due to the more mild weather. The population figures are mentioned in this article.
The Bloomberg administration said Friday that the number of people living on New York’s streets and subways soared 34 percent in a year, signaling a setback in one of the city’s most intractable problems.
Appearing both startled and dismayed by the sharp increase, a year after a significant drop, administration officials attributed it to the recession, noting that city shelters for families and single adults had been inundated.
Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services, said in a subdued news conference that the city began feeling the increase in its vast shelter system more than two years ago. “And now we’re seeing the devastating effect of this unprecedented poor economy on our streets as well,” Mr. Hess said.
The city’s annual tally indicated an additional 783 homeless people on the streets and in the subway system, for a total of 3,111, up from 2,328 last year. That is in addition to almost 38,000 people living in shelters, which is near the city’s high.
The count came from an annual census of homeless people that is typically conducted on a cold January night, when more than 2,500 volunteers walk the streets and subway system between midnight and 4 a.m. to search for and identify the homeless. It took place this year on Jan. 25.
There were more homeless people found on the streets in every borough. The largest increase was in Brooklyn, where an additional 228 people were counted, more than double the total in January 2009. Manhattan had a 47 percent increase, or 368 more homeless people. In Staten Island, there was an increase of 45 percent, or 54 people; in Queens, a 14 percent increase, or 14 people; and in the Bronx, 6 percent, or 10 people.
Volunteers found 109 additional people — an increase of 11 percent — on subway trains and in stations.
Some of the homeless were found in out-of-the way corners in Queens and Staten Island.
A higher-than-usual concentration of homeless people have been recently seen in Pennsylvania Station. And a pocket of homeless men in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, appears to be new immigrants from Poland, trying to find work as day laborers.
The homeless population on the streets this year was down 29 percent from 2005, the first year of the count. The numbers had been steadily declining each year until the latest tally.
New York officials said the city still had a relatively small population of homeless people on the streets when compared with other large American cities.
There is one homeless person for every 2,688 people in the general New York population, compared with 1 in 154 for Los Angeles, 1 in 1,810 for Chicago and 1 in 1,844 for Washington. Among other cities conducting homeless counts this year, only Seattle, which showed a slight decrease, has so far announced results.
Mr. Hess promised that there would be new measures to encourage more of the homeless to get off the streets and into shelters. In the next month, the city will open two new housing facilities with 105 beds. And street-outreach workers will survey people to help understand why they are homeless.
Mr. Hess said he wanted to allow more people to go directly from the street to a shelter bed without an intake process and to cut out some of the bureaucracy that deterred them from entering shelters.
Tim Marx, the executive director of Common Ground, a nonprofit organization that provides homeless street outreach services in Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Manhattan, said he was not surprised by the increase.
“It just says that we have to keep up our efforts and intensify them,” Mr. Marx said. “The more people we have on the streets, the more they are making demands of our emergency shelter system, emergency rooms, detox centers and jails.”
Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, said he saw the count’s results as a sign that the administration needed to revamp its policies.
“Based on the increase reported today, I hope we can agree that we need to change our approach,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “I continue to believe that we can do more to take on the growing problem of homelessness, including expanding prevention programs, re-examining our housing policies and maintaining support for critical services — such as drop-in centers and faith-based shelter beds — that often are all that stands between single homeless adults and the streets.”
The count has attracted its share of skepticism since it was first conducted in 2005. Advocates for the homeless have questioned the city’s methodology and have frequently accused the administration of underestimating the number.
The city says it follows a national standard and includes decoys as a way to measure the accuracy. The decoys, who are volunteers, station themselves around the city and note whether the official counters come by. In January, 90 percent of the decoys were counted, so the city assumed that 10 percent of the homeless were missed and adjusted its tabulation accordingly.
Last year, city officials said that the count revealed a 30 percent drop in the street homeless population since 2008, an announcement that was made at an elaborate news conference attended by volunteers, formerly homeless people and Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services, who spoke briefly.
This year’s event was quiet and spare by comparison. Ms. Gibbs’s commissioner, Mr. Hess, made the announcement in a conference room, seated at a long table.
A version of this article appeared in print on March 20, 2010, on page A1 of the New York edition.