Municipal Government

NYC Not Managing Costs for Homeless

December 27, 2016
By Neal Tepel

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer

New York, NY – The number of homeless New Yorkers living in commercial hotels has spiked dramatically since November 2015, with the City now spending an unprecedented $400,000 per day on hotel rooms – a 669 percent rise over 12 months – according to a new analysis released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

The analysis shows the average daily rate per hotel room rising substantially from roughly $160 to over $193 per night – with more than 800 room bookings for $400 or above, including some that cost taxpayers $629 per night.

Just as the City has promised to phase out “cluster sites,” City Hall has pledged to end the use of commercial hotels. Comptroller Stringer has consistently called for a comprehensive, transparent plan to solve the crisis, which continues to escalate. From  November 1, 2015 to October 31, 2016 the number of hotel rooms booked by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) jumped from 324 to 2,069 – an increase of 540 percent.

The Department of Homeless Services made a total of 425,000 hotel room bookings at a cost of more than $72.9 million.The estimated number of homeless New Yorkers in commercial hotels skyrocketed from 696 to 5,881 individuals – a jump of more than 745 percent. The average daily rate DHS paid for a commercial hotel room grew from $163 per night in the month of November 2015 to $194 in the month of October 2016, an increase of nearly 20 percent.

The most expensive rooms cost $629 per night. Thirty of them were booked for two days in September 2016. Over the course of the year, 815 bookings were made for $400 per night or higher.

“I am calling on the City to develop a comprehensive, transparent roadmap to solve this extraordinary crisis. The City doesn’t have one – and it needs one urgently because we are undoubtedly sliding backwards and our homeless children deserve more. This crisis has been mounting, and our homeless families depend on us. To help our most vulnerable New Yorkers get back on their feet, to help families thrive, and to ensure we are spending taxpayer dollars efficiently, we need a plan from the City – and we need it now,” Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “These costs are absolutely alarming. While I know that progress will take time, we cannot continue to accept the status quo. The City promised to end its reliance on both cluster sites and hotels – and we are no doubt trending in the wrong direction. The City is not moving the needle on this extraordinary problem, and that’s why we continue to speak out.”

The new data comes following a letter Comptroller Stringer recently sent to DHS outlining significant concerns with hotel use, which often have limited services to help homeless individuals get back on their feet. Commercial hotel units cost on average about $6,600 per month, or almost $79,000 on an annual basis – nearly double the cost for any other shelter type. Commercial hotel shelters usually have limited services for families. These hotel units lack kitchens and provide less privacy – making them inappropriate for families to live in long term.

A recent investigation by Comptroller Stringer’s Office found that the number of homeless children three-years-old and younger placed in commercial hotels skyrocketed 224 percent this summer – despite the fact they have no on-site child care services at all.

December 26, 2016

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