Homeless Official, NYT Obfuscate Significance of Jan. '09-Jan. '10 Spike in 'On the Streets' Population

NYTlogoWithPaper2009

Sometimes, certain claims made by establishment media reporters or people who are quoted don't pass the smell test. Then, when you dig in, to borrow a phrase from Michael Savage, the stench makes you clench.

Such is the case with a front-page story ("Number of People Living on New York Streets Soars") that went up online at the New York Times late Friday, and appeared in its Saturday print edition.

Reporter Julie Bosman opened fairly enough with this paragraph:

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.

The New York City Department of Homeless Services’ Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOME) is conducted in late January each year. It’s almost as if Bosman and/or her editors thought that this opening statement was too strong and needed some seasoning; after all, you-know-who’s administration in Washington was overseeing the economy during the entire period in question.

So take a look at how Bosman, with the help of a “clever” homeless services official, tried to massage the results in the next five paragraphs, and then be amazed at how reality differs:

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.

Bosman described this year's on-the-streets homeless population increase of 783, or 34% as "sharp." Guess what the decrease from January 2008 to January 2009 described only as "significant" was? Try almost 1,000 (graph is at the fourth slide of the January 2010 HOME report, a PDF accessible at this "Statistics and Reports" page):

NYC5yrHomelessOnStreets2005to2010

What's more, from January 2005 to January 2009, the final four years of the eeeeevil George Bush, the on-the-streets homeless count dropped by 47%.

Hess's ignorant (or deliberate?) "pin the blame on the recession; I can just feel it" argument is beyond pathetic, and Bosman did readers a disservice by including it. While she did get around to noting 2008's 30% drop in her second-last paragraph, she never told us how many people (978) that represented, or that it was a bigger drop than 2009's gain.

Not that it constitutes any kind of proof, but it's more than a little interesting that the "on the streets" homeless population in Gotham plunged so steeply in 2008, when we were supposedly in a recession during the entire year (the recession as normal people define it didn't start until the third quarter of 2008).

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.