Throughout May, the city will transfer 1,000 New Yorkers living in city homeless shelters every week to vacant hotel rooms, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday.
In mid-April, the mayor announced that the city agencies would work to transfer 6,000 single New Yorkers living in city shelters to hotel rooms with a goal of transferring at least 2,500 people to individual rooms by April 20. But the city missed its own deadline and only housed 1,000 people by April 21, according to Politico.
During Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing, de Blasio said that the city finally transferred 6,000 New Yorkers to hotel rooms, weeks after homeless advocacy groups first called on him to house New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in one of the city’s 30,000 vacant hotel rooms.
On Monday, the mayor announced that the city opened up 200 safe haven beds for the homeless New Yorkers and up police homeless outreach efforts at 10 end-of the-line subway stations.
But these new efforts still fall short of what advocates and elected want for homeless New Yorkers during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything that the city has been doing around homelessness and COVID-19 is a reflection of what they have been doing around homelessness throughout the entire length of the de Blasio administration,” said VOCAL-NY Housing Campaign Coordinator Joe Loonam. “Allowing it to grow, allowing it to fester, offering half measures that don’t go far enough while people are really suffering.”
As of Tuesday, 775 homeless New Yorkers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to data from the New York City Department of Homeless Services. Out of those people, 660 live in city shelters and 35 were street homeless. The agency reported 57 homeless individuals have died as of Monday due to complications caused by the novel coronavirus, a number that advocates fear will skyrocket if the city does not isolate at least 30,000 of the city’s roughly 64,000 homeless inhabitants.
“The city is really running out of time to act boldly on this and the results are going to be measured in loss of human life,” said Loonam.
Mayor de Blasio also announced on Wednesday that city agencies will drastically expand testing efforts on the city’s homeless population this week.
According to a spokesperson from the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the agency will begin testing homeless New Yorkers in a “handful of shelters” this week with “new shelters being added over the next two weeks.” The goal is to provide testing throughout the entire city shelter system.