UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan — Tens of thousands of homeless have been staying in hotels across the U.S. paid for by federal programs aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, but as hotels re-open to tourists and federal pandemic funding wanes, many are facing uncertainty as the hotel programs end.
New York City is moving roughly 9,000 homeless people out of hotels and back into traditional shelters now that hotels are filling with tourists.
Many of those homeless New Yorkers were living in the Lucerne Hotel. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing paid the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side to house homeless men in the beginning of the pandemic.
Sunday night was the last night for homeless New Yorkers to stay there. There were about 280 homeless men living here at one point.
Some will be headed back to shelters and homeless advocates have said that’s the wrong move.
Many people don’t feel safe in shelters and wind up on the streets, Owen Crowley of the Upper West Side Open Hearts Initiative said.
“The shelters are expensive, dangerous and perverse if you’re objective is to get people off the streets,” Crowley said.
Permanent housing was found for many of the homeless men living at the Lucerne, but about 60 remain and will be leaving Monday morning.
Henry Melendez has permanent housing lined up in the Bronx, but the apartment won’t be ready for another month. He’s hoping he can stay at the Lucerne until then.
“I’m very, very grateful what they did helping me get a new apartment, but moving back to the shelter is not a good idea,” Melendez said.