7 On Your Side Investigates: New York City transitioning homeless from hotels to traditional shelters

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) – Even before the pandemic began, New York City’s homelessness problem was the worst since the Great Depression.

As the numbers of homeless men and women continue to increase along with positive COVID cases, the city is working to move them out of temporary hotel shelters and back into traditional shelters.

When COVID first hit, the city turned hotels into residences to keep people at a safe distance.

It was a $600 million plan to house men, women, and families in more than 60 different hotels.

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Now, they are in the process of moving some of them out of private rooms and back to shelters huddled with several people in one place.

A city spokesperson told WABC that they are on track to have no more families with children in commercial hotels by the end of the year, and to reduce the number of hotels in use overall.

They are committed to ending the use of commercial hotels as shelters as part of the city’s “turn the tide” plan.

“Now we are seeing once again, with rates rising, many singles and those staying in shelters are facing the next phase of the pandemic,” said Jacqueline Simon, of the Coalition for the Homeless. “In dorms clustered rather than, ideally, the safety and security of their dorms.”

For many shelter residents, it’s not about where they stay, it’s about staying long enough to get back on their feet.

“I hope to get the proper help I need and services so I can move on,” said Bernadette, a shelter resident who was staying at my hotel shelter in the Bronx before moving over the past week.

They say having a fixed address is important.

“When you apply for jobs, you have to write down the address of where you are currently,” said Natasha Bryant, a resident of the recently relocated shelter. “So God forbid if they change you, now you have to go and change your address. And if your mail goes to that old address, you won’t get any of that mail.”

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While the number of homeless families has decreased, the number of single men and women has increased since the pandemic began, from 16,048 in 2019 to 18,012 this year.

And with the eviction moratorium ending next month, those numbers could rise even further.

“We are all concerned about what the coming weeks and months mean for homelessness and housing insecurity in New York,” Simon said. “I hope the next administration will come with a greater realization that housing is the answer to homelessness and will approach this crisis like it is and with a greater sense of urgency.”

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