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De Blasio Plans To Use 6,000 Vacated Hotel Rooms As Homeless Shelters

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a coronavirus press briefing.

Recently vacated hotel rooms across New York City will be used to house a portion of the city’s homeless population after weeks of pressure to do so from advocate groups.

New York City is set to move thousands of people from homeless shelters into hotels across the city beginning this week in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus in shelters, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday. 

“Where it's clear to our Department of Social Services and our Department of Homeless Services that social distancing cannot be achieved properly, a number of those clients will be moved to hotels to achieve the balance, to make sure there is the proper social distancing,” he said during the press conference announcing the measure.

The move will nearly double the number of people moved from shelters to hotels, up from the 3,500 previously transferred

The city will give preference to those who have tested positive for the virus, those who are showing symptoms and the elderly, de Blasio said. The individuals to be moved account for about one-third of those in the shelter system and just a fraction of the more than 62,000 people experiencing homelessness in the city as of January 2020, according to the Coalition for the Homeless

“A lot of our street homeless folks are going through a lot right now like everyone, of course,” de Blasio said. “We're going to remind them and show them that there's a better way, and it's available to them now.” 

Most hotels around the city will remain otherwise closed until July. Thousands of workers across the hospitality industry were laid off toward the end of March. Occupancy rates at hotels across New York City dropped 80% last month, The Real Deal reported

De Blasio didn't specify which hotels will be used for the initiative or how their owners would be compensated.

Advocates have been urging public officials to put a program like this in place since New York became the epicenter of the virus. Over 180 health officials have signed a letter asking de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow those experiencing homelessness to stay in vacated hotel rooms.