NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some residents in the Queens neighborhoods of East Elmhurst and Corona are upset after the city temporarily relocated homeless individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 into a hotel in the area.
The move is apparently part of a larger citywide push to help those who are sick properly isolate.
Alfonso Johnson lives across the street from the hotel in a building filled with seniors.
“A building that has a 60% senior citizen rate is put across the street from people who are sick and highly contagious,” Johnson told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.
He was one of many residents who gathered Tuesday to speak out.
Some say it makes no sense to put more COVID-positive individuals into a community that has been hit so hard by the pandemic.
“Somehow the city in their infinite wisdom decided that that’s exactly where we should put more COVID-positive patients that are homeless,” said community activist Hiram Monserrate.
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Residents claim their neighborhoods are already home to several city shelters.
“We have been hit with, in several of the locations, with public urination, drug use, alcohol abuse, all in plain sight,” Monserrate said.
Residents and community members say they were not given adequate notification by the city that homeless people would be moving into the hotel. They say they’re especially upset about that because they should have been given a heads up.
During the pandemic, the city says it has has temporarily transferred thousands of homeless residents from shelters into more than 60 hotels.
It says the move has allowed for greater social distancing and has saved lives.
Homeless advocates are on board.
“Far from telling the city to stop using hotels, we actually need them to be using them more frequently,” said Giselle Routhier, with the Coalition for the Homeless. “This is a resource that will save lives and allows homeless people access to safe space to isolate.”
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CBS2 tried to ask the city about this specific situation in Queens, but officials would not answer those questions, instead giving us general homeless policy statements.
While the move is temporary, the city says there’s no timeline on how long hotels will house homeless people.
Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.
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