Homeless New Yorkers Grateful for Places to Stay, but Want More Coronavirus Tests

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NEW YORK – Thousands of homeless New Yorkers live in hotels as the coronavirus epidemic continues and although they appreciate the unexpected improvement in living conditions, many are concerned about how effectively they can avoid COVID-19 infection.

Dwayne Gray, 51, is one of many people displaced from the city’s traditional and cramped shelters to spacious commercial hotels in New York.

“I haven’t had a coronavirus test yet, no,” said Gray. “I asked to be tested before, but they said it takes money to get tested for the coronavirus.”

The Homeless Services Department significantly accelerated its hotel policy for COVID homeless people in mid-March. They used several hundred units, but two months later, until mid-May, and the city has now transferred some 8,000 homeless people to commercial hotels.

Gray now lives in the recently closed luxury boutique hotel The Blakely in Midtown Manhattan.

“Most of my family is outside the state, so I really have nowhere to stay right now,” he said. “We all had our own rooms. Some guys have two bedrooms. “

Gray said he was grateful for the general treatment he had received so far, including the hotel room at the Blakley, but he hoped his health care would soon live up to his comfort.

“I want to get tested because I cough a lot,” he said. “I’m not saying I have it, but I’m coughing a lot. Other than that, all is well, man. “

All of the homeless PIX11 New Yorkers we met while reporting this story told us that they had received masks, but no coronavirus testing – yet.

William Sam has just moved to the Bentley Hotel on the East Side of Manhattan.

“The reason we put these masks on is to be safe, so we don’t end up being the ones going,” said Sam. So I mean, I’m alive. “

Sam and Gray have just started their stay at the hotel.

A DHS spokesperson told PIX11 that the agency currently has

– More than 700 isolation units available for anyone who starts to get sick.

– nurses performing health screenings during the initial admission process

– and that the agency has already received its first delivery of face coverings for its homeless clients.

But the fact is, because homeless adults are free to walk the streets during the day, it is entirely possible that they can bring the coronavirus back to their hotels at night.

About three months after the start of the pandemic, DHS officials confirmed to PIX11 that the agency was still planning to “launch a large-scale test program to systematically identify and isolate one of our COVID + customers for 14 days in commercial hotels ”.

In addition, the DHS spokesperson confirmed that last week the agency had only 1,200 thermometers on hand to check for fever – in all of its shelters, isolation sites and commercial hotels.

New York public lawyer Jumaane Williams said his office prompted DHS to start moving the city’s vulnerable homeless population from the streets and shelters to less crowded hotels.

But Williams said it was not enough.

“We have always said that there needs to be additional care, including testing, especially to make sure people get medical care,” said Williams.



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