Throughout May, the city pledges to transfer 1,000 New Yorkers living in city homeless shelters every week to vacant hotel rooms, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, de Blasio had announced that city agencies would work to transfer 6,000 single New Yorkers living in city shelters to hotel rooms, with a goal of transferring at least 2,500 people to individual rooms by April 20. But the city missed its own deadline and had only housed 1,000 people as of April 21, according to Politico.
During Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing, de Blasio said that the city had now transferred 6,000 people from shelters to to hotel rooms, weeks after homeless advocacy groups first called on him to house New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in the city’s 30,000 vacant hotel rooms.
On Monday, the mayor announced that the city opened up 200 safe haven beds for homeless New Yorkers and stepped up police homeless outreach efforts at 10 end-of the-line subway stations.
But these new efforts still fall short of what advocates and other elected officials are calling for.
“Everything that the city has been doing around homelessness and COVID-19 is a reflection of what they have been doing around homelessness throughout the entire length of the de Blasio administration,” said VOCAL-NY housing campaign coordinator Joe Loonam. “Allowing it to grow, allowing it to fester, offering half measures that don’t go far enough while people are really suffering.”
As of Tuesday, 775 homeless New Yorkers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data from the New York City Department of Homeless Services. Out of that total, 660 live in city shelters and 35 are street homeless. The agency reported 57 homeless individuals had died as of Monday due to complications caused by the coronavirus, a number that advocates fear will skyrocket if the city does not isolate at least 30,000 of the city’s estimated 64,000 homeless individuals.
“The city is really running out of time to act boldly on this, and the results are going to be measured in loss of human life,” said Loonam.
De Blasio also announced on Wednesday that city agencies will drastically expand testing efforts on the city’s homeless population this week.
According to a spokesperson from the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the agency will begin testing residents in a “handful of shelters” this week with “new shelters being added over the next two weeks.”
The goal is to eventually provide testing throughout the entire city shelter system.