By Jon Cronin, Editor
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) introduced a bill last week that would require hotel owners to inform patrons if their hotels house the homeless.
The new law would also make hotels under contract with the Department of Homeless to post signs visible to customers to notify them if homeless people are being housed on-site. Ulrich said that he believes it is a waste of money for city hotels to house the homeless.
“This is not an attack on the homeless,” Ulrich said at last week’s City Council meeting. “It’s going to be a big stick in the eye to the mayor, who has absolutely failed abysmally when it comes to addressing the homelessness crisis that we have in this city. The public has a right to know whether or not that hotel or that motel is also being used as a temporary homeless shelter.”
He believes that tourists are shocked to know homeless people are staying in their hotels.
“It is not fair to those consumers—some of whom spend upwards of $600 a night—to be left in the dark,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich stated that there were a total of 62,674 homeless people citywide in December 2016 and that there were 15,856 homeless families and 24,076 homeless children.
Earlier this year, city officials also revealed that spending on the homeless is poised to reach a whopping $2.3 billion, which is nearly double the $1.2 billion spent three years ago.
A spokesman for the DHS said that releasing such information could lead to intimidation of those trying to get back on their feet. He added that as city services expand and new shelters are built, the city would be able to better serve the homeless community.
“We all agree that a hotel is not a home, as it does not provide the proper supports and services that our shelters have to help get homeless families and individuals get back on their feet,” the spokesman said. “Waking up in a hotel far from home and without a kitchen to prepare breakfast or the support from providers is not the way forward. With more effective, high-quality shelter capacity coming online across the five boroughs as part of this plan, we will be able to end this long-standing practice once and for all.”
The spokesman also cited New York State Social Services Law Section 136, which involves privacy and client confidentiality. If passed, Ulrich’s legislation would take effect 90 days after its enactment into law.