Should New York use taxpayers’ money to house 13,000 homeless in upscale hotels?


Fact Box

  • As of August 11, there have been a total of 451,603 coronavirus cases in New York, with 32,854 deaths. 
  • New York had an estimated 92,091 persons experiencing homelessness in January 2019. Of the total, 15,901 were family households, 1,270 were Veterans, 2,978 were young adults, and 7,229 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
  • Currently 13,000 homeless adults are living in hotels across the city in order to keep shelters safe and socially distanced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • New York residents have made their complaints in regards to the homeless in high-end hotels stating, “our community is terrified, angry, and frightened.” They are noticing higher levels of anti-social behaviour and drug use by homeless people in their neighbourhoods.

Kevin (Yes)

As pointed out on the Coalition for the Homeless website, 'People bedding down on the streets, in the subway, and in other public places are particularly vulnerable, as they have higher rates of serious health problems, are constantly exposed to the environment, and lack access to bathrooms and running water needed to simply wash their hands.' Homeless shelters have shown a death rate 61% higher than NYC at large, and before the pandemic, the shelter system was already overcrowded. The June Coalition for the Homeless report shows how 'the vast majority of the public, on a bipartisan basis,' supports government action regarding COVID relief for those without homes or struggling. Housing is increasingly viewed as a human rights issue, and to deny it at such a time would be beyond a shame.

Even aside from the obvious humanitarian concerns, as Anita Bartholomew writes in Forbes, 'caring about what happens to a half-million strangers with no place to go, whether out of compassion or pragmatism, must be part of the national response to this virus.' She argues the U.S. can't support 'large swathes' of citizens going 'unhoused and exposed,' seeing this as an increased danger for everyone, housed and homeless. As if these reasons aren't enough, there are economic reasons that such a move would make sense. The U.S. tourism industry is expected to take a massive hit due to repercussions from the pandemic and our country's failed response. Some hotels may thus need the income from such a program to stay in business. 

Louie (No)

13,000 homeless Americans are being sheltered in hotels throughout New York City in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Though this is a heartfelt show of compassion on the government's part, the plan has its economic and logistical concerns that outweigh the generosity shown. There is a tumultuous cry of frustration from the citizens of New York in response to this situation. One mother of three, living near one of the hotels, revealed to reporters the social impacts of having such a concentrated amount of 'inebriated,' drug-using, and known sex offenders living in her community—needles are appearing on the streets, and people are found slumped over near restaurants. These details are some of many that citizens are expressing on Facebook groups. One member notes how neighbors are constantly moving out. Others confirm that through an agreement with FEMA, the city will have to pay 25% of the expenses of these 'homeless-hotels.' Officials of the state have not yet given any insight into how much this project is costing the city, leaving citizens guessing. Mayor De Blasio's plan to shelter the homeless comes as an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, it's scientifically proven that the virus spreads more aggressively indoors. A study in The Journal of Infectious Diseases revealed that 89% of coronavirus particles died within 10 minutes when exposed to the sun's rays. As the homeless are moved from outside in the sun, to inside in crowded hotels, they are at an increased risk to obtaining and spreading the disease, proving the cities' plan to be counterintuitive. Fundamentally, the decision to use taxpayer money to shelter 13,000 people has major budget and public safety flaws.

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