By Commissioner Steven Banks, Department of Homeless Services (DHS)
Housing homeless New Yorkers in hotels is a practice that has gone on for decades that must and will end. As the Mayor announced six weeks ago in February, we are committed to phasing out commercial hotel facilities used as a form of shelter by the end of 2023. We will reduce the City’s shelter footprint by 45% by closing 360 shelter sites and opening a smaller number of better and safer shelters across the five boroughs — and we will redouble our efforts to prevent homelessness in the first place.
We agree — a hotel is not a home and it does not provide the proper supports and services that our shelters have to help get homeless families and individuals get back on their feet.
While we are getting out of hotels altogether, the City has put in place strict policies to control costs for taxpayers.
And let’s break down the facts. The average cost per night to shelter homeless New Yorkers in a hotel has been $175, and we have put into place a plan to reduce costs and improve services. We have already reduced individual hotel rates below $250 on any given night. These are facts that the Comptroller’s statement ignores. The Comptroller failed to mention that we no longer pay high rates as we had on certain nights in the past. The Comptroller is also citing the initial charge for booking rooms on certain nights without taking into account discounts that we negotiated.
To be clear, when rooms are rented, they may be rented for an extended stay, which may make the rates higher than shorter stay rates. There are also cases in which rates are higher when rooms are booked on short notice — and we require additional amenities and services, including accommodation for case workers and 24/7 security, for our families and individuals who would otherwise be turned out onto the streets. We make sure our staff and security personnel can be on site as part of that commitment, and we negotiate costs based on those factors for our blocks of rooms, often getting discounted rates and recouping costs following the initial reservation.
Our homeless neighbors deserve better. Waking up in a hotel far from home and without a kitchen to prepare breakfast or the support from providers is not the way forward. As we open replacement shelters across the city we will be able to end this long-standing practice once and for all. Working together, we can and will help our homeless families and individuals in our communities.
To learn more about the plan to Turn the Tide from the Department of Homeless Services visit nyc.gov/tide.