This city has, for a long time now, been grappling with a homeless crisis, confirmed not only by hysterics on the part of local tabloids, but by the mayor himself. And though homelessness has been on the rise for the last decade, it appears many if not most neighborhoods have seen an uptick this year, at least when it comes to reporting homeless persons to city authorities.

Steven Melendez sifted through 311 calls from January 1st to August 31st in both 2014 and 2015, with logs covering both complaints about homeless encampments and reports of homeless individuals in need of assistance. Melendez then synthesized the compiled data into this map, showing every neighborhood in the city and their respective change in complaints over the last year:

Interestingly, the neighborhood that attracted the most media focus in regards to homelessness has not actually seen the highest spike in complaints. The Upper West Side, which was the subject of an "in-depth" NY Post "investigation" this summer, saw a 73 percent spike in calls related to homelessness, far fewer complaints than other areas.

The neighborhoods that saw the highest spikes in complaints—as in, increases of over 200 percent—include Turtle Bay-East Midtown, Hudson Yards/Chelsea/Flatiron/Union Square, and Battery Park City. Reports from the Upper East Side/Carnegie Hill area, where former Mayor Rudy Giuliani famously alerted cops to a homeless man who defecated on his block, more than doubled, and the Times Square area, whose pedestrian plazas have been subjected to increased scrutiny thanks to their supposed attractiveness to homelessness and petty crime, saw a 288 percent spike in homelessness-related calls.

A second map shows the neighborhoods that clocked in at least 200 calls in 2015 and saw an increase of more than 100 percent since 2014:



Note that this data merely covers reports of homelessness. It does not account for homeless families and individuals who have slept in city shelters over the last year nor the actual number of homeless individuals sleeping on the streets—both numbers have climbed significantly over the last decade, according to city data.

Moreover, one city official tells us 311 complaints sourced from open data, like the data presented in our maps, are likely largely made through the 311 app—311 phone calls made regarding encampments or a homeless person in distress are immediately transferred to 911 or the Department of Homeless Services. 311 does not record the location of those transferred calls.

And though critics have been quick to blame de Blasio for the uptick, some homelessness advocates have blamed both the economic downturn and regressive policies of the Bloomberg administration [pdf], specifically the former mayor's preference for for-profit shelters and three-quarter housing.

Melendez counted a total of 6,138 311 location-tagged complaints related to homelessness from January 1st to August 31st of this year. That's more than twice the 2,725 calls the system logged during that same period in 2014 (4,958 for the whole year). That number is likely considerably greater, if phone calls transferred to 911 or DHS are included—last month, DNAinfo reported a total of 20,242 homeless-related calls between January 2015 and August 9th, as compared with 25,357 calls total in 2014. One city official speculates that 311 calls have spiked overall thanks to the increased popularity of the 311 app.

The Mayor's office, for its part, says the numbers of homeless individuals are beginning to decrease. de Blasio spokesperson Karen Hinton says:

Under Mayor de Blasio’s leadership, homelessness is on the decline. Previous administrations drastically reduced the homeless budget and, as a result, the number of homeless jumped from 36,000 in 2005 to 59,000 in 2014. Since taking office, the Mayor has increased the homeless budget by $1 billion over a four-year period. We are starting to see the impact of added services. The number of homeless has dropped from 59,000 to 56,000. He and the First Lady also put into a place a mental health effort, which includes identifying mentally ill individuals with violent tendencies, including homeless on the street and in shelters.

Hinton adds that the NYPD has begun "aggressively enforcing quality of life violations."

Steven Melendez is a Brooklyn-based independent journalist who was previously a full-time member of WNYC's Data News Team.