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New York City's Plan To Move Homeless Back To Shelters Hit Roadblock As Some Refused To Leave Midtown Sheraton

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City's plan to empty 60 commercial hotels temporarily used to house the homeless during the pandemic hit a roadblock Friday.

Some initially refused to move out of a hotel near Times Square, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

Homeless men who spent the pandemic at the Four Points by Sheraton Midtown are now being sent back to shelters.

Their belongings were crammed into plastic garbage bags that littered the area of West 40th Street in front of the hotel before they were loaded onto trucks.

The move did not go well. Homeless advocates told Kramer about 25 people in the hotel refused to leave at first.

One resident said he's afraid to go to a shelter because of the Delta variant.

"Yes, I'm afraid to get sick," said Anthony Campbell, who would only speak to Kramer over the phone because he was refusing to vacate his hotel room.

Campbell sent Kramer a picture of a chair he was using to barricade the door in case officials tried to forcibly remove him.

He said he's not the only one worried about the conditions at shelters.

"I'm worried about catching COVID again. This is something that we can't let happen. I don't know what the mayor's playing at. He's playing games," said Anthony Molloy.

A spokesperson said of the 17,000 single adults served by the Department of Homeless Services, nearly 7,000 have been vaccinated through programs run by the city.

With COVID-19 in retreat, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the department have plans to move about 9,000 homeless New Yorkers back to dorm-style congregate shelters where multiple residents sleep side-by-side.

The men who were staying at the Four Points found the move confusing and upsetting.

"Here I am, I got five bags. I'm only allowed to take two bags. I got three bags upstairs that I can't take," said Shade Witherspoon. "I don't even know where I'm going. They haven't told me where I'm going. They just told me to pack my clothes."

"It's like you're just kicking us back out to the curb," said John Greene.

Eventually, the last holdouts did leave the hotel.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services said officials are committed to making the move back to shelters, "... the best and safest experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet."

Officials said the move from hotels to shelters will take until the end of the month.

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