In Harlem River Park in Manhattan, homeless men can be seen sleeping on benches around the basketball courts and sprawled out on a soccer field by day, then hunkering under an overpass at night.
In Brooklyn, dog owners in Fort Greene Park have had ugly confrontations with homeless people after their dogs woke them up in the early morning when they are allowed off-leash. And in the Bronx, there are so many homeless people in one small park, Devanney Triangle, that the community board and parks department are discussing the removal of all benches.
After a decade in which the number of homeless people on New York City’s streets had fallen by almost 25 percent, this year has seen an uptick in their number: On a single day in January, the population of the so-called street homeless was 3,357, representing an increase of 6 percent from the year before.
Betsy-Ann, an outreach worker, speaking with a homeless woman in Penn Station in January.As Homeless Shelter Population Rises, Advocates Push Mayor on PoliciesMARCH 11, 2014
A result has been a growing number of homeless encampments in the city’s parks, traffic squares and plazas. The attendant behavior — like public urination, sleeping on benches and violating the blanket 1 a.m. parks curfew — has led to tensions with neighboring communities.
Over all, the city’s homeless population is at a record high, with 57,676 people living in shelters as of early November, in addition to the growing numbers on the streets. In the past month, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office has convened an interagency task force to address the issue. As part of that effort, the city has identified 25 sites where the street homeless are congregating in large numbers. The sites include parks, private buildings, vacant lots and bridges, which have become priorities for the outreach teams who fan out across the city’s five boroughs daily to engage people living on the streets.