In response to those who have argued that these temporary shelters are not offering the homeless residents with the services they need, the letter states:
“All of our facilities, including commercial hotels that are part of our congregate shelter de-density efforts, offer social services. On-site services include case management, permanency planning and housing placement assistance, referrals to medical and mental health services, independent living and life skills workshops, and residential services and support in finding and securing employment. Off-site service linkages continue to include primary healthcare, health/mental health services, substance use treatment, vocational training, employment placement, GED instruction, conflict mediation, and legal services.”
In response to concerns about some of the residents who have criminal backgrounds, the letter states:
“In addition to following State Law as relates to residency requirements, we have to follow the law on providing shelter to all who are experiencing homelessness, regardless of background, since New York is under court order to provide shelter to all those who need it – and it would therefore be unlawful to discriminate against individuals based on their backgrounds or prior experiences.”
One of the biggest and most common complaints has been the lack of transparency and community input. The letter addresses this by stating:
“Unlike a regular shelter siting where we have established procedures to provide at least 30 days prior notice before a shelter opens – and in fact do so – these and other temporary relocations from congregate shelters to protect public health by promoting social distancing have been implemented on an emergency basis as part of the City’s effort to flatten the curve of the virus.”
The DHS representative wraps up the letter by stating that while a relocation date is currently unknown, the agency does plan to inform the community once they determine when these individuals can be moved back to the shelters they previously resided at.
“Of course, at the point at which public health guidance determines that clients can be relocated back to our congregate shelters from the temporary emergency relocation sites, we will inform you and the community. We are continuing to work with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to determine when and how it will be safe to phase out the use of the temporary emergency relocation hotels and return to the congregate shelters.”
Read the full letter here.