A week after Councilman Eric Ulrich introduced a bill that would require hotels to tell guests if they’re housing homeless people, two state lawmakers who cover areas of his Queens district have drafted a similar bill that they plan to bring to the State Capitol.
State Senator Joe Addabbo, based in Howard Beach, and Woodhaven-based Assemblyman Mike Miller said on Aug. 17 they would bring to Albany their own version of Ulrich’s city-level legislation that would mandate hotel management to post signs indicating to customers that they have homeless people staying there. Employees would also need to verbally inform them of the same during check-in.
Ulrich said that his legislation would compel hotels and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to be more transparent with the public about where homeless people are being sheltered. In recent years, the city and other agencies have turned to Queens hotels to provide temporary shelter for homeless individuals, sometimes with little or delayed notice.
The bill that Addabbo and Miller plan to introduce mirrors that goal by requiring hotel management to inform their guests if they have entered into a contract with a city or state entity to house homeless people. They stressed that the legislation, like Ulrich’s, isn’t an attack on homeless people — but merely a way to better inform the public while also potentially discouraging the use of hotels as homeless shelters.
“Paying customers have the right to know what an establishment they intend to lodge at is doing,” Miller said. “We have an obligation to be transparent about where homeless families and individuals are being housed.”
“This legislation is not in any way intended to hurt homeless individuals and families living in hotels in Queens or throughout the five boroughs, but it is an effort to ensure that the city hears loud and clear that this type of housing to address the homeless crisis is not working, and is almost always completely inappropriate for those in need,” Addabbo added.
In applauding Addabbo and Miller for their state-level legislation, Ulrich stressed that the DHS and the city must be more forthcoming about homeless shelters across the city. He previously stated that his legislation is “a big stick in the eye” of the de Blasio administration, which he charged has failed to adequately meet the needs of the more than 60,000 homeless people living in New York City.
“There needs to be more transparency within the department, which should provide accurate information to our communities, and to the more than 60 million people who visit the city each year,” Ulrich said. “It is my hope that both the city and the state legislature recognize the significance of these bills.”
In the wake of Ulrich’s bill introduction, the DHS issued a statement critical of the legislation, indicating that it may “impact hotel owners’ willingness to provide this crucial capacity, preventing [the city] from meeting our court-ordered obligation to provide shelter to verifiable homeless New Yorkers in need, and resulting in homeless New Yorkers having no place to go.” The agency also suggested it might violate client confidentiality provisions in the Social Services Law.