Mayor De Blasio Seeks Vendors To Source Hotel Rooms For The Homeless

The De Blasio administration is looking for non-profit vendors to find hotel rooms for homeless New Yorkers.

By Annette Barlow January 6, 2017

Although repeatedly identifying temporary hotel accommodation for the homeless population as an untenable housing solution, De Blasio’s administration is currently seeking non-profit vendors to take over the contracts to find hotel rooms in bulk for homeless New Yorkers. The contracts would last anywhere between three and nine years, throwing into question De Blasio’s assertion that the use of hotel rooms as interim accommodation is temporary.

This measure would, according to the Department of Homeless Services, allow the city to save money on the cost of renting commercial hotel rooms at face value, while also formalizing the process of using hotels as homeless accommodation, and thereby allowing the city to establish a better oversight of homeless services.

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The city’s use of hotel rooms has dramatically increased in recent years, and as of February 2016, 2,656 homeless people were living in hotel rooms across New York. In fact, the city currently spends $40,000 each day to house 7,200 people in 3,300 hotel rooms. Single adults cost the city $170 per night to house in hotels, and $174 per night for families with children.

But this is only a small part of New York’s increasingly serious housing crisis, as the number of homeless people in the city rose to 60,000 this year alone. The city currently spends $1.2 billion per year on shelter costs for the homeless population, and although the last two years have seen 30 new shelters spring up across the Big Apple, hotel rooms provide a significant emergency resource until De Blasio’s planned shelters can be opened.

Indeed, the new contracts to seek bulk hotel rooms for the city’s use would ask vendors to source 3,900 hotel rooms, with 2,500 rooms set aside for families with children. Vendors would also be hired to secure services for homeless clients, an often-overlooked issue where hotels are concerned, frequently lacking basic services as they do. Some homeless providers have applauded this new policy, which they say will address this lack of services, while other homeless service providers insist the city should concentrate its efforts on establishing new shelters.

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It’s a tricky situation the city finds itself in, keen to stop using hotels as temporary accommodation and yet lacking in sufficient current alternatives. The number of people approved for city-funded homeless shelter is ever-increasing, and yet establishing long-term housing solutions not only costs huge amounts of money, but also comes up against numerous roadblocks, slowly down the process no end. Local residents often oppose the erection of newly established homeless shelters, while clusters (privately owned apartments used as temporary shelters) threaten the real estate market, taking private, affordable units off the rental market.

In fact, De Blasio spokeswoman Asa Worthy-Davis is keen to remind New Yorkers of their responsibility in finding a solution: “We want to transition out of housing the homeless in commercial hotels, and to do that we need greater acceptance that shelters are needed citywide.”

Annette Barlow



Annette is freelance editor, sub-editor, journalist and proofreader with a fierce love of all things feminist, food and music. She is a regular fixture on the arts, culture and feature desks at The Guardian, and her words have appeared on NME, Great British Chefs, The Fly, The Line of Best Fit and Australian Times.

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