Fewer Homeless on City Streets

(Kathleen Horan)

(Kathleen Horan)

The city says a group of volunteers counting the homeless on a cold night in February found just over 2300 people. That's a 30 percent drop compared to last year. Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs says the results are counter-intuitive, given the economic crisis. But she says people living on the streets are typically not the ones who've lost jobs or homes.

GIBBS: While there are clearly economic issues, it is more fundamentally about the underlying untreated mental illness and substance abuse that most often occurs.

The city says the drop is likely due to a program that moves people directly from the streets into private rooms which, unlike shelters, have few rules. But homeless advocates say there are too few of these rooms available to account for the reduction.

Patrick Marquee from Coalition from the Homeless, a regular critic of the city's homeless count, says volunteers continue to miss people who prefer to sleep in hidden places.