NYC reserves 100 rooms for homeless, gets banned by hotel

NYC reserves 100 rooms for homeless, gets banned by hotel
A New York City hotel was not pleased when it set aside 100 rooms for a “government group” only to find out that scores of homeless people were going to occupy them for more than a week.

In fact, the Radisson Hotel in Queens was upset enough to ban New York’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) from booking rooms there any time in the future.

The whole situation unfolded after a city representative called the hotel in October to reserve 100 rooms for a “government group” in November. That phrase is typically one that hotels love to hear, especially in slow months, but when DHS called to confirm the details of its 10-day reservation, Radisson general manager Pierre Merhej was caught off guard.

"We didn't know it was homeless residents but then when we talked to [DHS] they said they really need the room and they would really appreciate it if we helped them for a week or 10 days," Merhej said to DNAinfo.

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

According to DHS, the reservations were made to temporarily house homeless residents as temperatures across the city drop sharply. The agency said the hotel rooms were just a stop-gap solution while it figured out exactly where to send people.

“DHS has always used temporary spaces for families as they await eligibility determinations to come into shelter," the spokesman said to the website. "This is a short-term measure and ensures that no family is without shelter as the temperatures drop.”

While Merhej noted that the homeless guests didn’t interfere with the day-to-day activities of the hotel or its guests, he told DNAinfo that DHS won’t be allowed to book rooms there in the future – no matter how much they offer to pay.

“This is a hotel, not a shelter, and we want to keep it this way,” he said. "We have a business to run and a reputation to keep and we intend on keeping it."

AFP Photo/Spencer Platt

As winter weather begins to settle in, the plight of New York City’s homeless will continue to raise concern. There are more than 58,000 homeless people in the city, according to DHS’ most recent report, and more than 25,000 of them are children.

However, New York isn’t the only state struggling with this issue. Hawaii made headlines earlier this month for planning to ship out some homeless residents with free one-way tickets out of the state. The plan was initiated after repeated complaints from tourists.

Elsewhere, even efforts to help feed the homeless have come under heavy scrutiny. Recently, Florida police threatened to arrest two priests and an elderly veteran for sharing food with the hungry – a new ordinance prohibits the act and makes it a citable offense.

Back in February, officials in Columbia, South Carolina, began requiring any group of 25 people or more to pay for and obtain a permit 15 days in advance if they wished to use the city’s parks for an event. This requirement was extended to non-profit groups and charities, though their fees would be smaller. Those fees – as much as $120 per week – could not be met by some food programs, including one that had been sharing meals for over a decade.