City may continue to house homeless New Yorkers in hotel rooms for nine years

Posted On Tue, January 3, 2017 By

Posted On Tue, January 3, 2017 By In Policy

Though Mayor de Blasio said early last year that he would phase out the process of using hotel rooms to fill the gaps in supporting the city’s growing homeless population “as quickly as possible,” a new request from the Department of Homeless Services would extend the practice for up to nine years. The Post reports that the agency’s proposal is in response to the record 60,686+ New Yorkers in shelters, and they’re asking for vendors to supply “emergency shelter social services in commercial hotels.”

At the beginning of December, Mayor de Blasio ramped up the controversial initiative, earmarking 500 additional hotel rooms for the surging homeless population. This came months after the incident when a homeless woman and her two children were fatally stabbed while staying in a Staten Island hotel where the city placed them when it had no space in a shelter. “The goal is to use hotels less and less and eventually stop using hotels altogether… the goal in the short term is to reduce the use of hotels intensely,” he said at the time.

In response to the Mayor’s recent actions, Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report that put the average cost a night citywide for these hotel rooms at $400,000. As 6sqft noted, the findings concluded “that since November 2015, the city booked a total of 425,000 hotel rooms, costing more than $72.9 million. As of [November 2016], there were 5,881 homeless New Yorkers staying in hotels, with the average nightly bill climbing from $163 to $194 over the past year.” Stringer has been critical of the practice for the fact that hotel rooms lack privacy, kitchens, and supportive services and are often far from schools.

The new request from the Department of Homeless Services asks for a contract that would likely last three years with two renewals, standard practice in social services. Many elected officials and those involved with homelessness feel this is a way for de Blasio to buy himself time on an issue he’s yet to successfully address. Mayoral spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis said, however, “We are committed to phasing out the use of hotels. Right now, they’re necessary alternatives to shelter space we don’t have. These contracts are standard in length, can be canceled, and will allow us to save money and avoid price spikes.”

[Via NYP]

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