Watch CBS News

Advocates Call On Lawmakers To Stop Transfers Of Homeless People From Hotels To Shelters

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Transfers of the homeless out of hotels resumed Monday after some of the relocations were temporarily halted by a judge.

So far the city says it has ended the use of 23 hotels of the more than 60 used during the pandemic, but homeless advocates say the vulnerable population shouldn't be put back into crowded shelters.

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reports, one year ago, nearly 300 men were moved from homeless shelters to the Lucerne on West 79th Street, one of many luxury hotels turned into temporary shelters. In the year since, there's been a legal back and forth about keeping them there.

Last month, CBS2 was there as the remaining 68 men were taken by bus and put back into congregate shelters.

"What I call congregate death traps," said one person.

Monday, homeless advocates and local leaders called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop the transfers.

"We still are getting FEMA reimbursement for 100 percent of the cost of people staying in hotels," said Councilman Steven Levin.

They also want them to implement city and state legislation that would increase vouchers to cover the fair market rate, they say making thousands more apartments accessible to shelter residents for more permanent housing.

"If you had school-age children – would you allow them to go to a sleepover party with 50 unvaccinated, maskless people sleeping in the same room?" said NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The news conference got a bit heated when a local resident interrupted to ask about why more of the homeless population isn't vaccinated.

Because advocates estimate only about 20% of the homeless population to be vaccinated, and with Delta variant concerns, the city's former health commissioner and other doctors also wrote a letter to de Blasio urging him to halt the transfers, or risk putting the entire city in danger.

"We have been persistently making vaccination available to all people who are in any of our facilities," de Blasio said.

But us one former Lucerne resident told Gainer, there's still a lot of distrust.

"It took a long time for me to actually make the decision to take the vaccine," the person said.

People who stayed at other hotels packed up their things and were bussed out Monday.

"We don't know if we're going back to places that are medically equipped – staff equipped, mental health equipped," said shelter resident Thyessa Williams.

Many say it's not just COVID-19 they're concerned about. It's the other dangers they say they faced at congregate shelters, pre-pandemic.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.