Volunteers with the Department of Homeless Services counted 3,892 homeless individuals on New York City streets in one night this past February, a 39 percent increase over 2016's Hope Count. In 2016, 2,794 people were counted. The results of the annual, federally-mandated count are the latest official metric on New York City homelessness, which hit a new record high last September.

"This year's HOPE Count confirms what our street outreach teams are seeing daily," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement Wednesday. "We remain undeterred in our efforts to bring New Yorkers off the streets."

Advocates for homeless youth and adults have long criticized the count, arguing that it does not adjust for annual fluctuations in the weather, volunteer training methods, or the sheer number of volunteers. They also point out that volunteers do not count people in vestibules, bank shelters and other public spaces popular for refuge on a cold night.

"In the winter, if you are street homeless, you have to secure some safe place where you don't freeze or die out there," said Jose Rodriguez, a member of the advocacy group Picture the Homeless who was in the shelter system for the better part of 2016. "And people are very creative."

Craig Hughes, who sits on the board of the Coalition for Homeless Youth, said that young people are particularly difficult to identify during the Hope Count. "Very often they are going to be in the all-night Apple Store or hidden away in abandoned buildings," Hughes said. "For young people, they are very often surviving by hiding."

By another measure, DHS says that its outreach workers were aware of 1,737 street homeless New Yorkers as of February 2017, part of a newly-established "by-name" list. An additional 1,901 "prospective clients" were being assessed as of February to determine whether they are street homeless, according to DHS.

"We know it's an undercount, but what the [Hope Count] number underscores this year, as we're seeing record homelessness in shelters, is that the supply is not keeping up with the demand," said Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless. "Particularly for those with mental health issues and substance abuse issues."

Other metrics of homelessness are a better indicator of New York City's crisis, advocates say. For example, there were 61,277 people sleeping in homeless shelters as of April 2017, according to Coalition for the Homeless, down from a December record of 62,674. The number of people entering the shelter system for the first time has increased 45 percent since 2013.

DHS Commissioner Steven Banks has often cited New York City's housing crisis and stagnant wages for the record homelessness. New York City lost more than 150,000 rent-stabilized units citywide between 1994 and 2012, according to City Hall. This year, though, the department also attributed the street homelessness spike to unseasonable weather—apparently acknowledging the shortcomings of its own methodology.

"This year, it was 40 degrees on the night the survey was conducted, with less than an inch of snowfall in the preceding 30 days," DHS wrote in its Wednesday press release. "By contrast, in 2016, it was 28 degrees on the night the survey was conducted, with more than 30 inches of snowfall in the preceding 30 days."

Hughes called this explanation "at best, shameful" and "an artful way of dodging what is a failed methodology."

Mayor de Blasio's HOME-STAT program—Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Street Action Teams—transitioned 784 New Yorkers from the street to a shelter option in 2016, according to DHS.

DHS says it plans to add 360 so-called Safe Haven beds, a drop-in option for street-homeless New Yorkers, before the end of the year. City Hall has also committed to opening the first 500 of 15,000 supportive housing units, geared towards homeless New Yorkers with substance abuse and mental health issues, by the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio's plan to abate homeless by opening 90 new shelter facilities has been met with resistance at the neighborhood level.

In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo allocated funding for 6,000 units of supportive housing, two years after it was first promised.

"It is incumbent upon Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to meet the unprecedented need [for shelter] by accelerating their respective supportive housing timetables," Coalition for the Homeless stated Wednesday.