As most people are encouraged to stay at home, the city has been figuring out how to best care for those who don’t have homes during this healthcare crisis.
Mayor de Blasio announced this Monday, May 11 that the city has thus far moved 8,000 single adult homeless individuals into hotel rooms. The city’s goal was to move one thousand people per week out of shelters and into hotels over the course of the pandemic, and he said they met that goal last week and will meet it again this week.
8,000 is nearly half of the adult single shelter population.
Shelters are especially cause for concern now because of how quickly the virus can spread from person to person, and shelters usually have shared rooms and close quarters.
“We’ve been trying to make sure as we deal with the coronavirus that we’re constantly evaluating our shelter system and moving people as needed to make sure everyone is safe and healthy,” he said. “We’ll keep doing that as-needed in the weeks ahead, and particularly as we build up our widespread test and trace initiative, which is going to help. Everyone in that initiative will also be focused on our homeless shelters.”
More issues arose once the subways were completely shutdown from 1-5am for an unprecedented 24-hour cleaning cycle last week. As city residents know, many homeless individuals end up sleeping on subway cars overnight. The Mayor said that homeless outreach workers and specially trained NYPD officers have been in the stations each evening over the past week in order to help individuals find a safe place to stay.
For these “street homeless” individuals, they are first moved into shelters because they “overwhelmingly are folks with serious mental health issues and/ or serious substance misuse issues,” the Mayor said. “And you can’t just say, here’s a hotel room, you know that’s going to work for you on your own. No, you really have to provide a lot of support, a lot of oversight, a lot of services.”
He said that on Monday evening 362 individuals were engaged by outreach workers and 211 accepted help, with 178 going to shelters and 33 going to hospitals.
“Every single night, we’re seeing the same things,” he said. “High level of engagement, large number of homeless individuals being engaged, the majority accepting help…if the first week is any indication this is a game changer and we’re going to put everything we’ve got into making this work, because I think it could fundamentally change the future of homelessness in the City for the better and get a really large number of people off the streets once and for all.”