NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — CBS2 has learned the city is now proposing to keep using commercial hotels to house the homeless for nine more years, despite a vow from Mayor Bill de Blasio to phase them out.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the practice has been drawing controversy for some time.
The MAve Hotel in the Flatiron District is now home to 74 homeless families, and while critics say using commercial hotels to shelter families with children is not a good idea, the city is now seeking bids from hotels to continue the practice for the next three to nine years.
Last February, the mayor said he intended to phase out the use of hotels after a homeless woman and her two children were stabbed to death in a Staten Island motel where they had been placed by the city.
But as the number of homeless has continued to rise, the city has continued to rent hotel rooms. The latest tally showed 60,141 total homeless families in hotels, and 41,241 with children.
A recent audit by Comptroller Scott Stringer tallied 425,000 bookings from November 2015 to Oct. 31, 2016 — at a cost of nearly $73 million.
Asked about the decision to seek new bids from hotels to house the homeless, Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said the city does plan to reduce the use of commercial hotels “when we can open more ongoing regular shelters.”
“But meanwhile,” the commissioner said, “using a contract insures cost efficiency, transparency and. . . Better oversight of conditions and services.”
On Monday, Comptroller Stringer, often mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate, said the city needed to stop using hotels as soon as possible.
“Once you make a commitment to expand commercial hotels, it’s something that will just continue to go on and go on without a real specific transparent plan to halt the use of these hotels as the mayor promised,” Stringer said.
Last week, at his once-a-week availability, the mayor admitted he was frustrated that his homeless policies have not
“I’m very dissatisfied that a lot of strategies we put in place to address homelessness still haven’t gotten us where we want to go,” de Blasio said. “We have to try new ones.”
The mayor has not elaborated on what new strategies are on the drawing board, but he did say the solution is quote “not a fun and easy equation.”
It is possible a new plan will be included in this year’s annual State of the City speech.