Sunset Park’s ‘temporary’ hotel-shelters may become permanent under new plan

Sunset Park’s ‘temporary’ hotel-shelters may become permanent under new plan
Community News Group / Caroline Spivack

Hundreds of Sunset Park hotel rooms where the city is temporarily housing the homeless could become permanent shelters for up to nine years under a new proposal.

The Department of Homeless Services is asking social-service groups for bids to run full-service shelters out of the hotels where the city has been putting up the indigent on a month-by-month basis — many of which are in Sunset Park.

The plan will increase oversight on the cost of housing the needy — which has skyrocketed this year, according to a report from Comptroller Stringer — and of programs that help homeless find affordable housing and job-training, officials said.

But the proposal also contradicts Mayor DeBlasio’s February pledge to “use hotels less and less and eventually stop using hotels altogether” when lodging the neediest New Yorkers.

The Department of Homeless Services hopes to find homeless-service groups to take responsibility for up to 3,900 rooms citywide on contracts ranging from three to nine years, according to a press release the agency quietly issued three days before Christmas.

The administration is standing by that claim, even though booking 3,900 rooms would be a new high-water mark — the city’s hotel-homeless population topped out at just under 2,500 in October, meaning the city could actually increase its reliance on hotels by as many as 1,400 rooms.

Department of Homeless Services officials acknowledged the contradiction but said they have little choice.

“There isn’t an immediate way to stop using hotels,” an agency spokeswoman said. “This is an interim solution until shelters can be opened.”

Sunset Park is saturated with itinerant inns with at least five in a 17-block radius spanning 22nd to 39th streets between Second and Fifth avenues. And there are six more hotels under construction that skeptical locals believe are destine to house the homeless that could be contracted into long-term service for the city.

Officials would not say when the new plan would go into effect.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.