De Blasio pushes hard against moving all homeless to hotels

(POLITICO) Joe Anuta, May 20, 2020

Nearly 8,000 people are still in New York City’s dormitory-style homeless shelters where Covid-19 can spread like wildfire — and Mayor Bill de Blasio is thwarting legislative efforts to move the entirety of that population into hotel rooms where they could be isolated.

Advocates for homeless people and some providers say the delay could end up with more shelter residents dead or in the hospital, and that the city’s position is all the more perplexing because the federal government will pick up a large chunk of the tab.

“When you’re putting out a fire, you don’t worry about the cost of the water,” said Charles King, head of nonprofit Housing Works.

The administration has relied on changing rationales to justify its reluctance, but the city’s Department of Social Services and others in the business of shelters argue the biggest concern is that hotels are inappropriate accommodations for many of their clients, even in times of emergency. People with mental health and substance abuse issues can’t just be dropped in a room, and the city argues it needs the discretion to keep some individuals in more traditional settings for their own safety.