Homeless People Are Moved From Midtown Hotels Back to Shelters

Homeless People Are Moved From Midtown Hotels Back to Shelters
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Homeless People Are Moved From Midtown Hotels Back to Shelters

Homeless People Are Moved From Midtown Hotels Back to Shelters

New York City resumed the process of moving thousands of homeless people from pandemic hotel rooms to barracks-style group shelters on Monday, two weeks after a judge halted measures on the grounds that the city did not take sufficient account of the health of the people.

Monday’s transfers, which caused confusion outside at least two Midtown Manhattan hotels, came amid growing concerns about the recent quadrupling of coronavirus cases across the city and objections from homeless advocates, who said the city was flouting the judge’s orders.

As three yellow school buses and several accessible vans waited outside the Fifth Avenue hotel near the Empire State Building, a woman, Dianne Marks, said she was told she was being transferred to a shelter. group from downtown, even though she had applied for a disability exemption known as reasonable accommodation due to respiratory and other health concerns.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” said Ms Marks, 57, as hotel residents walked around with their belongings in trash bags provided by the city.

Transfers resumed on the same day Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered city workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly because “the Delta variant is deadly,” and its former health commissioner reportedly said transfers from homeless people to group shelters – where 20 people sometimes sleep in one room and share a bathroom – endangering “the whole city”.

The city does not know how many homeless people have been vaccinated. It says 7,300 of the 20,000 adults in the main shelter system have been vaccinated at sites run by the Department of Homeless Services and an unknown number have been vaccinated elsewhere. Those who are not vaccinated could easily spread the coronavirus in group accommodation, according to homeless advocates.

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Under an order issued on July 13 by a federal judge, the city cannot transfer people who might benefit from reasonable accommodation without giving them at least seven days’ notice and meeting with them at least five days before. transfer to determine if they qualify. The order came as the city was less than halfway through the displacement of more than 8,000 people – a process it is working to complete by the end of the month to open rooms in hotels for tourists .

Mr de Blasio had always said that housing people in hotels, which the city started doing at the start of the pandemic to stem the spread of the virus, was meant to be a temporary measure. He said homeless people should be referred to group shelters because they received better social services there – a claim disputed by some advocates and shelter operators.

People staying at the hotels, many of which are concentrated in the heart of Manhattan, have faced repeated complaints from neighborhood residents and business owners about harassment, theft and drug use. Several of them have been charged with vicious attacks, including at least two hate-motivated assaults against Asian Americans.

A spokesperson for the city’s homelessness services department, Isaac McGinn, declined to say how many of the hotel’s guests were moved to shelters on Monday, how many had requested reasonable accommodations and how many were granted. But he said the department remains “committed to continuing our individualized and individual commitment to each client regarding their unique needs.” Before the judge’s order, the city said it had granted hundreds of housing units.

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Defenders of the Urban Justice Center’s safety net project wrote to city officials on Monday morning urging them to stop the transfers, saying they had spoken to many people who had not had a chance to ask. reasonable accommodation and to others who had received misleading or confusing transfer notices, or no notice at all.

“Cruelty and chaos,” said Helen Strom, the group’s homeless benefits and advocacy supervisor on Monday afternoon. “People are being sent to places where they have active cases of domestic violence and protection orders. People with severe physical disabilities are referred to shelters that cannot accommodate them. “

Ms Marks, at the Fifth Avenue hotel, said she was never formally informed of her right to request reasonable accommodation and only learned of it after hearing from other residents talk about it in the elevator.

Outside a Hilton Garden Inn on West 37th Street, a woman, Shareena Clark, was so upset by the move that she started banging her head against the hotel’s sliding glass door.

“I was frustrated,” said Ms. Clark, 29, later, wearing a scarf with ice cubes attached to her head. “Stress, anger, everything. I have no idea where I’m going.

Another hotel resident, Nicole Henry, said she was only told on Thursday that she could apply for reasonable accommodation and the next day, before she could even apply, she was told she was being transferred in a group shelter.

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“They didn’t even give us the chance to do anything,” said Ms Henry, 38. A few minutes later, she boarded a bus bound for a group shelter in downtown Brooklyn.

The sidewalk in front of the hotel was lined with bags of clothes and other personal effects that they had to throw away because they could only take two bags each.

On Monday morning, The Daily News published excerpts from a letter urging Mr de Blasio to cancel transfers written by Dr Oxiris Barbot, a former city health commissioner who resigned last year after stepping down. clashed with the mayor over the city’s handling of the pandemic, and signed off by members of a group called the New York Doctors Coalition. The letter said returning people to dormitory-style shelters “directly threatens the health of thousands of homeless New Yorkers and, indirectly, the health of the entire city.”

Mr de Blasio reiterated at a press conference Monday that the city had made the decision to return people to shelters “in close consultation with our health care leaders.”

Its current health commissioner, Dr Dave A. Chokshi, said the Department of Homeless Services had “worked for several months to ensure that vaccination is readily available and available” to the homeless and noted that shelter workers were included in the new vaccination and testing mandate. The city’s legally mandated right to shelter does not allow it to require residents of homeless shelters to be vaccinated.

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