MANHATTAN – It’s been exactly one year since homeless New Yorkers moved into the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side, a move that’s been controversial from the start. And while the hotel no longer houses the homeless, advocates say more needs need to be done as the city transfers even more homeless individuals into congregate shelters starting Monday.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was joined by activists outside the hotel.
“Stop moving people like they’re just commodities and chess and checker pieces,” Williams said. “These are human beings!”
Corinne Low, co-founder of UWS Open Hearts, said immediate help from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is possible.
“They’re doing this at the same time as they have two really important tools at their disposal to get people into housing,” Low said.
INTRO 146 is a bill that raises the CityFHEPS voucher up to fair market rate. There’s a state bill that raises the state voucher also up to fair market rate.
These vouchers allow homeless New Yorkers access to housing. The advocates say it will go from having 500 eligble apartments to 70,000, but they say the mayor has had the chance to sign the bill since May.
“He’s chosen to sit on it, not move people into housing and instead, push them back into dangerous congregate shelters where they sleep 50 to a room,” Low added. “The majority are unvaccinated and you can’t wear masks while sleeping.”
These concerns are rising as the delta variant is causing a surge in COVID cases.
Downtown from the Lucerne, New Yorkers are being transferred out of The Hotel at Fifth Avenue and are worried about their future.
“I’m feeling depressed, anxiety, everything is going over in me right now,” a homeless woman said. “I don’t know how to feel right now. I just want to be happy and get my own place. Something where I can live and be happy.”