Tag: homelessness

As Homelessness Increases, NYC Community Divided Over Hotel Housing on Cheddar

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Shams – better known as Da Homeless Hero – has lived in four different locations. His current address is The Lucerne Hotel in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where he and over 200 other homeless men are residing as part of a New York City program. He loves his most recent home, which has provided him with support during a difficult time.

“This is a deadly disease,” Shams, who recovered from COVID-19 a few months earlier, explained. “A lot of us are older, and going through being homeless, a lot of times you’re not getting the right help that you should.”

But some locals believe Shams and the other Lucerne residents would receive better care in a different area of Manhattan. After a months-long battle, a judge will decide next week whether the homeless men will stay or be relocated to the Radisson Hotel in the Financial District of Manhattan. 

“For me it was both as a parent my concern and especially as an anesthesiologist,” said Westside Community Organization president Megan Martin. “What I was seeing was that people were in the throws of an addiction who were not receiving services.”

Hotels for Homes

From Baltimore to Los Angeles, many local cities across the United States have struck deals with hotels to pay for unused rooms during the pandemic. These spaces are then turned into temporary shelters in order to help socially distance homeless individuals. Similar to the Upper West Side, many area residents are pushing to relocate them outside of their own neighborhoods.
The issues may continue to increase as more people find themselves displaced. Up to 250,000 additional people could become homeless as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an analysis by Columbia University professor of economics Dr. Brendan O’Flaherty. The unemployment rate in October reached 6.9 percent, an improvement from earlier in the pandemic. However, as states begin to shut down schools and businesses again with coronavirus levels spiking, there are worries more people could find themselves destitute. 

The Lucerne is one of three hotels in a ten-block radius that house homeless people. It is specifically earmarked for men in substance abuse recovery and many of its residents have mental health disorders. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the facility in September and called the conditions “unacceptable.” WestCo’s Martin said the hotel is far from the shelter of origin for many of its residents and other resources like methadone clinics are also quite a distance away. The new proposed location is closer to those facilities.

“When you have this severe mental illness and chemical addiction and you are not receiving the proper medical care and substance abuse services, you are basically saying you are just warehousing individuals, and then not giving them the proper treatment,” Martin said. 

Safety Concerns

Keeping the homeless men in the Upper West Side is also putting families in danger, she adds. She says there’s open prostitution, needles on playgrounds, robberies, and illicit

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Hotel stays help dozens experiencing homelessness find more permanent homes

Not too long ago, Marvin Oglesby spent his days searching for life’s essentials, and worrying.

“Worried if I have food, worried about other people living on the street, worried if I will make it to the next day or through the night,” he said.

A man in a checkered shirt takes a selfie.

Marvin Oglesby.

Courtesy of Marvin Oglesby

Oglesby lacked a stable place to live for three years. But last month, he moved into a duplex of his own. He credits this transition to having his own private room in a hotel.

“It gave me a foundation to stand on that and look for something more,” said Oglesby. “From the shelter to the hotel, that was the difference.”

In March, Hennepin County moved people, especially those most vulnerable to the worst effects of COVID-19, from congregate shelters into private rooms in five hotels. The plan was to reduce crowding and protect people most at risk.

There was another benefit.

According to officials working to end homelessness in Hennepin County, 56 people have moved into permanent housing since the start of the hotel efforts.

Housing can help people experiencing homelessness, especially those struggling with mental health issues like depression or anxiety, achieve stability, which is key to their well-being.

Michael Huffman, director of outreach and shelter at St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis, said hotels help people over shelters in other ways.

“They have 24-hour access to that space so that means that people who maybe were asked to leave during the day under normal circumstances are now able to pick up a third-shift job and work overnight,” Huffman said.

Oglesby said he felt a sense of agency at the hotel. “Staying at the hotel gave me independence so to speak, to see how I would live by myself.”

The “high-risk” hotels in Hennepin County each day housed 540 seniors and people especially vulnerable to COVID-19 who might otherwise depend on shelters or sleep outside.

There also are “isolation” hotels for people who may have the coronavirus or have tested positive. In total, there have been more than 1,400 occupants in what the county calls “protective and isolation” housing since March, according to data released earlier this month.

The hotels have also made it easier for social workers to connect with their clients.

Mohamed Sheikh was Oglesby’s social worker. He said social workers are able to provide consistent care because they know exactly where their clients are.

“The hotel presented an opportunity because they were able to stabilize their mental health, meet their physical health needs, and meet their social needs,” Sheikh said.

This week the Hennepin County Board approved spending $13.3 million in federal CARES Act funds to buy a hotel to provide more than 100 rooms for those at high risk of serious side effects from COVID-19. The aim is to have it open by the end of the year, and continue to offer support services. The board already had designated $3.6 million to purchase other facilities with around 160 units to house people with underlying health

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