Advocates and elected officials urged Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to house homeless New Yorkers in vacant hotel rooms during a press call on Tuesday as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage New York City.
The city already rents rooms in 83 commercial hotels to house nearly 12,000 people who are experiencing homeslessness, the Department of Homeless Services tol City Limits in January. The city intends to eliminate the use of shelters hotels by 2023 as part of de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan, but delays in constructing new shelters and a corresponding mission to end the use of cluster site apartments for homeless families have complicated the effort.
For now, however, advocates say the city’s more than 100,000 vacant hotel rooms can play a vital role in helping limit the spread of the virus and promote social distancing among homeless New Yorkers.
“We’re going through a lot of situations here,” Steven Dickerson, a VOCAL-NY organizer and shelter resident, said at the press conference. He said that beds are not spaced far enough apart to promote social distancing, and that more people would need to be removed from the shelter and placed into a space like a hotel room to alleviate that pressure. “There’s no place to put people,” he said of his shelter.
Among the elected officials calling for this change include New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Queens City Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Antonio Reynoso.
“Before this crisis, government has failed particular populations for quite some time,” Williams said. “The populations include homeless populations, who have been failed time and time again.”
Advocacy groups Communities United for Police Reform, Picture the Homeless, VOCAL-NY, Safety Net Activists of Urban Justice Center, Neighbors Together and Human.nyc have also suggested this change.