NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York has relied on hotels to temporarily house the homeless for years, but now underutilized hotel space will be converted into permanent housing under a new plan announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday.
Over the last several years, the homeless crisis in New York City has grown more visible and harder to manage. The coronavirus pandemic shined a light on existing problems: a lack of affordable housing and continued reliance on hotels to temporarily house the homeless. Robin, a homeless New Yorker PIX11 News met on the Bowery, is not a fan.
“The hotels, you had no services really, just basically food,” Robin said. “That’s about it really. And a place to sleep.”
Hochul’s new plan involves a detailed application process for hotel owners and developers to convert their facilities. She said that run-down hotels can present a safety risk in their respective neighborhoods.
“With hotels hit so hard by the pandemic, many of them never reopened, an opportunity has arisen to use vacant hotels in a way that’ll lift people up and give them yes, the dignity of a home,” Hochul said.
PIX11 News began reporting on the de Blasio administration’s reliance on homeless hotels almost six years ago. That plan used taxpayer dollars to house the homeless in hotel rooms, with no social service, alongside regular, paying guests. Mayor Eric Adams says this time around, converted hotels will become supportive housing.
“New York needs affordable housing, we cannot argue with that. And to not focus on converting hotels that are currently there, currently on the market, sitting empty – converting those hotels into now apartments with permanent housing,” Adams said. “Repurposing these housing is going to allow older adults, those with families, to take these older buildings and now utilize them to give someone a newer life, a life where they can feel they are receiving the housing they deserve.”
Cheryl Michell, chief program officer for the Bowery Mission, says attaching social services to newly housed homeless New Yorkers – cannot be an option.
“It’s crucial. We all recognize that people who are experiencing homelessness are facing numerous challenges,” Mitchell said.
Robin, who’s who’s currently staying in a men’s shelter, is taking a wait and see approach to Gov. Hochul’s plan.
“In terms of what they’re trying to do, the devil is in the details,” Robin said.