City using boutique hotels as homeless havens

NEW YORK  — Over the last several weeks, the city has been embroiled in battles with various communities over homeless shelters in their neighborhoods.

PIX11 wanted to turn the focus to people in the system and how they're being cared for once they're there.

The heated community meetings over the de Blasio administration's handling of the homeless crisis keep coming and the city's reliance on corporate commercial hotels to house homeless families keeps growing.

While those battles continue, the actual homeless are in a fight of their own.

"I'm in my last week of my pregnancy," Ariel Ruenada.

She has been staying at the Mave, a trendy, boutique hotel in Flatiron. It is one of the 75 city hotels, up from 31 in the spring, being used as homeless havens.

"I can't have a microwave, I can't have a hot plate and I can't have a refrigerator," Ruenada said. "So how am I supposed to take care of a brand new baby?"

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks and their surrogates have a new approach: a full-on embrace on their reliance on hotels, citing a well-known legal obligation to help house the homeless.

But the city has not addressed the issues PIX11 has exposed during months of investigations, including claims the agency is warehousing families in its network of homeless hotels.

Back in February, following murders at a Staten Island hotel, the mayor declared his intention to stop using homeless hotels and devise a specific strategy to the homeless out of them.

PIX11 posed several questions to the Department of Homeless Services based on those statements for this report.

All of those questions went unanswered. The agency did issue a statement to PIX11, saying they'll continue to use the hotels as a bridge to keep families off the streets. They also insist on neighborhoods doing their part to help house homeless families.