Should New York City Continue Transferring their Homeless Population into Local Hotels?

Annika Baker, Staff Writer

Scattered throughout the Upper West Side, located in New York, nearly 730 homeless individuals have relocated from the city’s unsanitary streets, to the vacant rooms of approximately one hundred and fifty various commercial and luxury hotels. Comparatively to all controversial issues, two significant differentiating beliefs debate whether to enforce or retract the pivotal decision of transferring these individuals into these hotels.

Throughout the past ten months, citizens of every country have experienced several ways in which COVID-19 has drastically influenced their economy. Under the authority of the OFS HealthCare, “In the case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the number of people infected with the virus can double or even triple in a matter of days.” Presented with this information, an individual can visualize how rapidly this virus is transmitted between each person globally if precautions are neglected. Dorms and restrooms are shared amongst the residents of each congregate shelter, and in this case, the “19,000 single adults currently sheltered in approximately 150 [of these] locations across the city.” Living in a confined area creates a higher risk factor of the virus circulating as a result of the close proximity and lesser chance of cleanliness within these facilities. 

Acknowledging the living conditions of those in congregate housing, as well as those currently on the streets, may help an individual develop the understanding of the crucial levels of difficulty these men, women, and children each face everyday of their lives. Remember the empty shelves once full of essential items, such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves? Remember how burdensome it was to locate and purchase these items? Have you, or anyone you know, directly witnessed how COVID-19 has negatively impacted those that have acquired this virus? Individuals who are experiencing a much greater restriction to sanitary items and shelter have a far higher risk of developing symptoms from exposure, possibly resulting in death. In order to help reduce the number of positive cases and overall death toll, the idea of transferring the homeless population into vacant hotel rooms was presented to the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, which seemed to be a transparent solution to many New Yorkers. Vijay Dandapani, the leader of New York’s Hotel Association, announced his support for this plan, stating, “Last year we had 69 million visitors to the city. Right now it is zero. Without hotels opening their doors there would have been rampant infections in these homeless shelters, if not deaths.”

Although numerous individuals verbally establish their compassion for the homeless population, they express concerns regarding the unsanitary conditions and negative behaviors associated with the people being introduced into these facilities. Residents of both the occupied hotels, as well as local housing, have spoken against de Blasio’s decision through voicing their concerns of the drugs, needles, and bodily fluids left behind from the homeless individuals. These substances have been encountered throughout the interior and exterior of a number of these hotels. A great worry has erupted revolving around the mentally ill chemical abusers and “registered sex offenders” coming into contact with young adults and children.

Understanding both the concerns of local residents and the basic necessities homeless individuals require, rather than removing the inhabitants from the comfort of these generous hotels should be promoted. Consequently, the quality of the current security measures should be elevated in order to help residents uncomfortable with the activity the homeless people conduct feel more secure. Although several aspects of the homeless population can be concerning to certain individuals, visualizing yourself in their situation— without a significant accessibility to food, water, hospitals, or sanitary items to fight against both generic bacteria and COVID-19— can ultimately expand the mind, and possibly indulge consideration for those in need.