On January 22nd, 13 CUCS staff members joined over four thousand New Yorkers in the City’s annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) count. The count is used to estimate the population of chronically homeless individuals living in the city. It takes place on a cold winter night to gain an understanding of who is really chronically homeless.
On the night of the event, volunteers gather at different training sites throughout the City’s five boroughs. There, they are separated into groups, assigned streets to canvas and taught how to administer the survey. This year, several CUCS employees were assigned to meet at PS 191 in Hell’s Kitchen Manhattan.
When CUCS staff arrived at the school, they were directed to the cafeteria. Tables that were earlier occupied by kids with lunch trays now had folders on them and adults gathered around, bundled in warm winter gear.
The HOPE District Captains introduced themselves and directed groups to pick a team captain. They suggested captains be volunteers who had participated in the count before. Then, each group opened their folders which contained maps of the groups assigned canvasing areas and survey slips. The CUCS group had three quadrants contained between 61st and 66th and Riverside Blvd and Amsterdam Ave.
District Captains went on to explain the survey’s methodology. Participants were told to approach every individual they saw out on the streets, except city workers, introduce themselves as volunteers with the city and ask if they could discuss their housing situations. If individuals agreed, participants would proceed to ask them if they had a place to stay that night, and if they declined, participants had to make their own evaluation and fill out the survey form for them.
After receiving the training, groups set out to their canvasing area. At 12:15am the count officially started and everyone began surveying their assigned area.
The CUCS group walked together and distributed the survey slips amongst team members, rotating who would approach the individuals encountered. “Our group did not encounter any homeless individuals, but if we had, we were prepared with slips of paper with different resources on them to hand out. If an individual had requested services that evening, we had a number to call for a car to come and pick the person up.” explained CUCS staff member, Amelia.
All groups were told to meet back at their designated training site at 4am when the survey ended. At the training site, groups sorted their completed survey slips, putting those with a homeless individual’s information into a separate folder from the rest. Volunteers then gave these folders to assigned District Captains and eventually made their way home.
The HOPE Count is not only important to organizations like CUCS helping the homeless, but important to the City as a whole. It is the largest volunteer event in New York City and one of the few nights a year where thousands of people come together to help their fellow New Yorkers.