NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of New York City homeless people sleeping on subways, sidewalks and other public spaces dropped by 5 percent during Mayor Bill de Blasio's first year in office, according to a city report released on Thursday.
Fewer than 3,200 people were found living in public spaces during a daylong count in February 2015, down from 3,357 people counted in a single day the previous year, Gilbert Taylor, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, said in a statement.
"While we still have a long road ahead, I am heartened
to see an overall reduction in our unsheltered populations over the past year,” he said.
New York City, like other major U.S. cities, uses a count of people living on its streets and in alleys, parks and subways to estimate program needs, allocate resources and educate the public on issues facing the poorest residents.
A count last year showed an increase of 6 percent in the number of homeless not using shelters or other accommodations over 2013.
Advocates for the homeless say that while the city's annual survey is needed, it is not extensive enough and leads to an underestimate of the percentage of unsheltered residents.
This year's results were released the same day de Blasio, who took office in January 2014 and has backed affordable housing initiatives and other social services for the poor, is set to announce that the city will allocated an addition $7 million toward homeless services.
City funds used toward moving homeless from the streets to shelters are set to increase to $9 million in fiscal year 2016 and $19 million the following year, the department said.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Ted Botha)