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De Blasio Says It's Time To Move Homeless People Out Of Hotels, Back Into Shelters

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - With most COVID restrictions now lifted in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city is ready to move thousands of homeless people back into shelters.

During the pandemic, about 9,000 New Yorkers have been living in 60 temporary hotels to reduce the spread of the virus.

As CBS2's Andrea Grymes, has the latest, it's a decision long overdue, or made in haste - depending who you ask.

De Blasio announced plans are in place to move the city's homeless out of hotels and back to shelters, as soon as the state gives the final green light.

"Once we get that sign off, we can start immediately moving people to shelters, and getting back to that work of moving them forward in their lives. We will be able to complete this by approximately the end of July," de Blasio said.

As CBS2 has extensively reported, the city moved thousands of homeless men and women into dozens of hotels to keep them safe during the pandemic, but many neighbors - especially in Hell's Kitchen - say this caused spikes in crime and quality of life issues.

"There was public defecation, urination, fornication, drug dealing going on," said attorney Randy Mastro.

Mastro represents the neighborhood group WestCo, which fought to move the homeless out of the Lucerne Hotel, and two others, on the Upper West Side.

"Single room occupancy hotel isn't built to accommodate such a vulnerable population, can't get the services on site that they need," Mastro said.

The advocacy group the Coalition for the Homeless disagrees.

"People actually are getting services in hotels and in fact, providers and residents report greater sense of well being and better health and mental health outcomes overall," said Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless. "It's premature to even consider returning to congregate settings at this point. We're still in the middle of a pandemic."

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told Grymes there was no state COVID guidance barring the city from moving the homeless back to shelters.

"Our understanding from previous experiences on this issue is that we did require state authorization. And so we simply want that to be done formally," de Blasio said.

The mayor says that formal authorization can be done as quickly as Wednesday, and they'll immediately start the move, believing it is now safe to do so.

The state Health Department referred Grymes to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. A spokesperson there says New York requires no special requirements of homeless shelters, other than for all residents to weak masks as per CDC guidance.

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