With the COVID-19 pandemic fading, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city will be moving 8,000 homeless people placed in 60 different temporary hotels back to traditional shelters, pending state authorization.
At the beginning of the pandemic, homeless individuals were relocated from closely-confined shelters to temporary hotels for their health and safety due to the rapid spread of the disease. Now with record low COVID-19 levels, the city is deciding to move them back into shelters.
“We now can make changes because we’re having this recovery, because we’re making this progress,” said de Blasio. “It is time to move homeless folks who were in hotels for a temporary period of time, back to shelters where they can get the support they need.”
The original decision to move the homeless into temporary hotels was controversial. Many residents who lived in the area of the temporary hotels were not happy with the decision due to quality of life concerns.
De Blasio said the ultimate goal is to get the homeless out of the shelters and into affordable housing. With most COVID-19 restrictions lifted after the state reached a 70% vaccination threshold on June 15, de Blasio feels that this is the right time for the move.
“All of our planning is in place. We know exactly all the shelters we are going to be bringing people back to, they are being prepared. We’re ready to go,” said de Blasio.
The only thing standing in the city’s way is authorization from the state, de Blasio said, noting that the city’s Department of Social Services had requested state approval on May 18.
“Once we get that sign-off, we can start moving people from hotels to shelters and getting back to that work of moving them forward in their lives,” said de Blasio.
The mayor said that the city will be able to complete the move by the end of July.
The Coalition for the Homeless disagrees with de Blasio’s comments that it is time to move the homeless back into shelters.
“The Pandemic is not over. There are people sleeping in shelters who are still testing positive and getting sick,” said Policy Director at Coalition for the Homeless Giselle Routhier. “It is unconscionable to guide homeless policy by the discomfort of housed New Yorkers, especially when lives are on the line.”