A Holiday Inn Express in Corona is being used to house homeless families — which came as a surprise to the community, according to local lawmakers.
Congressman Joseph Crowley, state Senator Jose Peralta and Assemblyman Francisco Moya said the hotel at 113-10 Horace Harding Expwy. has been housing homeless families for months. The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) never notified lawmakers or residents.
“The number of rooms being utilized for the purpose of housing the homeless has routinely exceeded 30 to 40 percent of the building’s capacity, and neither elected officials nor the community were notified,” the lawmakers said. “Although the community is extremely sympathetic to the homelessness crisis, and we know that many are just a paycheck away from becoming homeless themselves, it is our hope that this hotel is not converted into a permanent homeless shelter.”
It not clear exactly when the city began renting rooms for homeless families or how many families are currently living there.
When QNS reached out to the Holiday Inn Express to confirm its use as a shelter, an employee said, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
The employee transferred QNS to the general manager, who did not answer her phone.
Lauren Gray, spokesperson for DHS said the agency is renting some rooms “to help meet its legal obligation” and there are “currently no plans to convert this location into a homeless shelter.”
Gray added that the city’s legal obligation to house a “rising number of homeless New Yorkers” has forced DHS to open additional shelters and rent more rooms in hotels.
Residents in Maspeth faced a similar situation when the city announced plans to convert a Holiday Inn Express into a permanent shelter. After residents staged many rallies and voiced their opposition to the plan to city officials, the hotel owner said he’s backing out of the plan. The city has yet to officially announce if the proposal is off the table.
According to Crowley, Peralta and Moya, there are five permanent shelters in this region of Queens. They say the communities in western Queens “have contributed more than their fair share to alleviate the homelessness crisis.”
It was recently discovered that the city also began using a Quality Inn in Woodside as a temporary shelter without notifying the community or elected officials.
The Pan American hotel shelter in Elmhurst, which received fierce opposition from the community and racked up many health code violations, was turned into a permanent shelter earlier this year.
In July, 4,000 homeless New Yorkers slept in 46 motels, more than 1,000 in eight hotels in January 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Rooms typically cost $161 per night and the city has spent $50 million to rent rooms in the past year, according to WSJ. City officials are obligated to tell elected officials if hotel rooms are being rented to homeless families only when more than 50 percent of the rooms are rented, Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration Steve Banks told the Wall Street Journal.
According to DHS statistics, there are currently 59,527 homeless people in shelters across the city.
Local lawmakers said they will “fiercely fight any attempt by the city to convert yet another local facility into a shelter.”
“A successful effort to address the pervasive issue of homelessness starts with an open dialogue between DHS, elected officials and community residents, not by forcing a neighborhood to take on additional burdens without first gathering meaningful input from those who are to be affected,” they added.