Hell’s Kitchen sits in the center of Manhattan, the heart of New York City. Pre-pandemic, the commuters and tourists who walked our streets would see a mix of people who are well-to-do, middle class and, in some cases, down on their luck. What many would not have noticed was that our community typically houses more than 2,310 shelter residents. We’ve always welcomed residents in temporary, transitional and supportive housing as part of the fabric of our neighborhood.
Our community is proud of our long record of helping neighbors in need. Last year, Hell’s Kitchen won the Coalition for the Homeless’ Compassionate Communities Award for our work creating affordable housing and supporting shelter residents. This is why we understood the city’s swift action to move sheltered residents out of congregate settings and into our empty hotels. We believe New Yorkers are all in this together and have an even greater responsibility to care for our homeless neighbors while we all deal with this ongoing pandemic.
But our typically unflappable community, from the West 30s to the West 50s, is reeling from the disproportionate number of temporary shelter beds relocated across Hell’s Kitchen. Since May, the city has added more than 1,800 shelter beds in addition to the existing 2,310 beds, according to the Department of Homeless Services. More than 800 of the 1,800 new shelter residents are housed within one square block; approximately 8% of the city’s single adult homeless population that was relocated is now living in temporary hotel shelters on West 36th and 37th Sts., according to figures and documents DHS provided to Community Board 4.
Most egregious is the complete failure to create a sensible long-term plan for the necessary shelter relocations. The city’s temporary hotel shelter plan is no longer working, and that “temporary” plan is at risk of becoming a long-term setup.
With the dramatic increase in shelter beds, we have not seen an increase in support services for the homeless in our neighborhood — or anywhere. The 1,800 relocated homeless people were provided rooms in mostly budget hotels that are unsuited to provide the care and services many shelter residents need.
Mental health and substance abuse treatment, as well as basic social services, are not provided on-site to the large number of shelter residents in our neighborhood. Instead, we are confronted by open drug use and dealing, verbal harassment, physical assaults, public acts of lewdness, urination, and defecation outside our homes and businesses each day.