Photo via Public Domain
Officials on Tuesday said the city will spend $384 million annually over the next three years to house homeless New Yorkers in commercial hotels, despite promises to phase out the once emergency-only measure. The costs, which will total more than $1 billion, will also include creating supportive services for families, as well as amenities hotel rooms lack, like refrigerators and microwaves, according to the New York Post. Department of Homeless Services told City Council members at a hearing Tuesday that the three-year contract is temporary, but needed as the city continues to open new shelters that will eventually replace cluster sites and other underperforming shelters.
With the largest homeless population in the United States at nearly 78,000, New York’s shelter infrastructure is over capacity. And while Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration released an initiative “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” last year, the city has failed to meet its goals of opening 20 shelters each in 2017 and 2018. Last year, the city opened just 10 shelters, citing delays in the permit process and opposition from residents and public officials.
In December, de Blasio announced plans to convert hundreds of cluster units (private apartments in buildings in which landlords rent out to the city to house homeless people) occupied by homeless families into permanently affordable apartments. The number of cluster sites in the city has dropped from a high of 3,650 units in 2016 to 1,974 apartments last year. The administration continues to use about 75 hotels to house those in need.
Because of the high cost using hotels as shelters (about $174 per night), this policy has not been particularly popular with New Yorkers. When the mayor announced plans to open a new homeless shelter for 150 single adult men in a former hotel on Billionaires’ Row in Manhattan, residents expressed frustration.
The planned shelter will open in a converted Park Savoy hotel at 158 West 58th Street and is expected to cost $64 million. Patricia Jenkins, a local who lives near the shelter, admitted the city has a “homeless epidemic” but told the Post in January: “I don’t have an answer, but I know I do not want a homeless shelter in my neighborhood.”
One of the goals of the initiative is to bring homeless shelters to neighborhoods that lack them, including the wealthiest parts of the city. “They also have to participate in this effort to ensure that we have enough shelter,” de Blasio said, referring to the Midtown West neighborhood.
[Via NY Post]
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