New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has been housing the homeless in high-priced hotels since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic reported Fox News. The move was made to lessen the number of homeless in communal shelters in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Currently, at least 139 of New York City’s around 700 hotels are temporary homes to the homeless. The total number of people in the hotels is around 13,000. The city had a homeless population of around 80,000 in May according to The Intercept. The total has grown as the coronavirus pandemic has forced more and more New Yorkers out of work.
Some are highly critical of the costs associated with housing massive numbers of homeless in the city’s hotels. Michael Fischer, President of the Central Park Civic Association said the current costs, “will eventually bankrupt the city. With more and more people fleeing the city because of the homeless problem and defunding the police where they don’t feel safe, the city will not have the funds to sustain this. And the crisis is only going to get worse.”
Back in April, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) signed a contract with New York City to cover 75% of the costs of housing the homeless in the city’s hotels. The remaining 25% is made up by the city. The current contract runs through October. Some funds have also been provided by charities and various crowdfunding efforts.
The move from shelters to hotel rooms is necessary for the health and safety of the homeless according to activists. By placing one person in each hotel room, social distancing can be practiced, unlike the usual communal homeless shelters where large numbers of people are packed into close quarters. Giselle Routhier, the policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, said, “Hotels, which are largely vacant due to the drop in tourism and business travel, offer safe, private spaces where homeless New Yorkers can socially distance, which is paramount to the safety of our homeless neighbors and to the health of the city overall The main priority in the midst of a deadly pandemic must be to save lives. Moving people from congregate shelters to hotel rooms is a commonsense and urgently needed intervention to protect homeless people, and should be a model for other cities.”
Problems inherent in housing the homeless in hotels other than financial ones concern local residents. The New York Post reported that at least six convicted pedophiles, who are out on parole, were moved into a hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The hotel is located a block away from an elementary school playground. An unnamed city official refused to verify the Post’s report, saying only, “All verifiably homeless New Yorkers have a right to shelter regardless of background. This includes helping people rebuild their lives and grow through second chances as they get back on their feet. We don’t discriminate based on people’s previous experiences or backgrounds, and we will not create gated communities within our City.” If the Post’s report is accurate, the placement of convicted sex offenders in such close proximity to children would be a violation of New York state law.