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Advocates Rally Against NYC's Decision To Move Thousands Of Homeless Individuals From Hotels To Shelters

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A march and rally against New York City's decision to move about 8,000 homeless individuals from hotels to shelters was held Saturday.

The process has been put on hold, but many say it shouldn't have happened to begin with.

Homeless advocates blasted the city for pushing those sheltered in hotels back to congregate living.

"Don't you know housing is a human right?" one speaker said.

Just as the city ramped up moving some 8,000 homeless people out of the hotels, a lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society brought the process to a standstill, including at the Hotel at Fifth Avenue.

"They woke us up early in the morning, banging on the doors at six, telling us to make sure we're packed and ready to go, and then they're stuffing all of us back to the same place that we just left from," shelter resident Chantel Estrella said.

The Legal Aid Society released a statement calling the city's rush to clear the hotels "illegal and inhumane," without enough time for proper screening and attention for disabled residents with special needs.

The pause grants more time to Victor Ortega to stay in an Upper West Side hotel room.

"Stay more longer until they find something better for us than putting us back in the dumpster," he said.

"Shelters to hotels to apartments, that's why we're out here today," said a speaker at Saturday's rally.

Those gathered for the march and rally accuse Mayor Bill de Blasio of recklessly endangering New York City's homeless population

"To allow our fellow New Yorkers to be exposed to dangerous and unsanitary conditions when other solutions are available is unconscionable," said Delcinua Glover, New York City deputy public advocate for housing.

There was no immediate reaction to the march from the mayor, but Isaac McGinn, a spokesperson for the city's department of homeless services, released the following statement:

"The health, safety, and wellbeing of the New Yorkers we serve as they get back on their feet is our number one priority – that's why we're continuing our comprehensive COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs, making it as easy as possible for our clients to get tested and vaccinated by delivering these free, vital resources directly to clients where they are. As we phase out the temporary use of COVID-period commercial hotels, we and our not-for-profit provider partners are also working closely with clients to assess each individual's unique needs and grant their Reasonable Accommodation (RA) requests, through a process agreed to in court, with hundreds of accommodations already granted as we work to meet those needs."

"We've already phased out 23 COVID-period commercial hotels as part of this process and commitment, which previously housed thousands of individuals. Pending the court hearing on Monday, we are holding in abeyance the scheduled transition out of 3 more COVID-period commercial hotel locations that were set to relocate this afternoon (1) and Monday morning (2)."

"Now it's time for the city to step up and help make it better for the people in the shelters and definitely for the neighborhoods that want to get back to a good economy," said Hell's Kitchen District Leader Marisa Redanty.

Residents were moved from 23 hotels out of 60 in the program. The process might start back up again after court hearings scheduled for early next week.

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