NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of homeless people were taken out of New York City shelters last summer and moved to hotels in an effort to keep them safe during the pandemic.

Nearly a year later, the COVID state of emergency is over and the homeless are going back to shelters, CBS2’s Kevin Rincon reported Monday.

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It felt like an eviction as these men grabbed their belongings and walked out of the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side one last time.

“There’s no other choice. What else am I going to do?” said Daniel Freeman. “I wish they would leave us right here just until my housing comes through.”

At the height of the pandemic, some 200 homeless men were living at the Lucerne despite legal efforts from neighbors to get them out.

On Monday, the remaining 68 men were taken to congregate shelters around the city.

“Why is this the first thing we do when the city opens up, and not the last thing we do to protect these people?” said Delsenia Glover from the Public Advocate’s Office.

Glover hoped the city would hold off until these men could find a more permanent solution.

The New York City Department of Homeless Services said, “Now that health indicators are headed in the right direction… we are phasing out this temporary program and returning to shelter… we anticipate completing this process by approximately the end of July.”

“Jail. Jail. Period. It’s jail,” Freeman said about the move. “I’m heading to jail today.”

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“Miserable, man. It’s like we’re going backwards after we got ahead,” Joe Humphrey said. “It’s just sad, man. It’s just sad the way this played out.”

Monday’s move was based solely on progress made against the coronavirus. Efforts by some neighbors to get the men out sooner over safety concerns were blocked in court.

“I just hope that they’re doing the right thing and giving them a better start. I have no problem with them being here in the first place,” said Upper West Side resident Janet Pytlik.

Other neighbors said things improved despite the initial concerns.

“If you have enough support for people, they can be very good neighbors and I’m sorry they’re moving out,” another woman told Rincon.

Many of the men who were forced to move said they’re thankful for getting the chance to be there.

“They helped me get back on my feet, so I appreciate them,” Freeman said. “They renewed my life.”

Advocates said it could take years for them all to find permanent housing.

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CBS2’s Kevin Rincon contributed to this report. Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Monday, June 28.

CBSNewYork Team