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CBS2 Exclusive: NYC Begins Using 3 More Hotels To House Homeless

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The city is placing more and more homeless people into hotels that are popular with tourists.

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported on the latest developments with the controversial practice exclusively Monday.

A year ago, the city's practice of putting homeless families in hotels came under fire, when a homeless mother and her three young daughters were stabbed at the Ramada Inn on Staten Island. mother -- Rebecca Cutler, 26 -- and two of her three daughters were killed. The third was critically injured.

But that tragedy has not stopped the city from using hotels to shelter homeless families and their children.

CBS2 has learned the city has now expanded into three more Manhattan tourist hotels where they are renting blocks of rooms.

"They're desperate," said CBS2 homeless consultant Robert Mascali. "They're totally saturated, and they have no place else to put them."

Mascali, a former Department of Homeless Services deputy commissioner, is highly critical of the city's practice of renting out blocks of rooms in hotels where there are also tourists. He said it is not secure.

"You don't know who's in the hotel. What if you have sex offenders?" Mascali said. "And you're putting children in that hotel."

CBS2 has learned that the city is now using the New Yorker Hotel near Madison Square Garden, the Skyline on Tenth Avenue, and the Holiday Express in Chelsea to house the homeless – at premium prices.

The price for the city to house the homeless is $219 per night for the New Yorker, according to the Department of Homeless Services. By contrast, couple from Sweden reported paying only $120.

The city tab at the Skyline is $180, while a Cape Cod tourist said he paid about $100.

"I think if New York City wants to house someone, they should be housing them at the rate the tourists are getting," said Deb Swaka of Cape Cod.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer found the number of people housed in commercial hotels rose from 696 in October 2015 to 5,881 in October 2016.

"The future of the homeless population in New York City is not to be warehoused in commercial hotels," Stringer said, "because we're spending $400,000 a night to warehouse people in hotels, and where's the plan to build the kind of shelter system and affordable housing that we need?"

The Department of Homeless Services is apparently so touchy about the increased dependence on hotels that it would not tell Kramer how many rooms are now being used. The department told Kramer she had to file a Freedom of Information Act request, and said the information might not be available, if at all, for five weeks.

Mascali said the city is required to tally how many rooms it is paying for -- every night.

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