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Are Bad Homeless Stats Still Too Good?

Bloombergers are gaming the numbers, activists say.

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Mayor Bloomberg promised in 2004 that he’d reduce the city’s homeless population by two thirds in five years. But a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office found only slight improvements. Advocates for the homeless think even those numbers are being cooked. “With one year left, they’re racing against the clock and hoping they can chisel around the edges and reduce the numbers,” says Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum chastised the city’s Department of Homeless Services earlier this month for turning away families that arrive at city shelters after 5 p.m., and last week, the department admitted it often diverts 18-to-21-year-olds seeking shelter to Covenant House. Both measures keep down the shelter population. “DHS is trying to massage the numbers and make things look better,” says Markee. “Their statistics deserve more scrutiny.” Replies a DHS rep: “Everyone who applies for shelter becomes part of our analysis.”

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