The city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) checked into the Comfort Inn in Kew Gardens this weekend and rented more than three dozen rooms for homeless men, according to a published report.
A DHS source confirmed to QNS on Tuesday that it had moved homeless men into 19 of the 84 rooms at the hotel located at 123-28 82nd Ave., near Queens Boulevard. The agency has reserved a total of 42 rooms at the hotel, and it anticipates using the remaining reserved rooms in the near future.
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz told the Queens Chronicle that the agency only notified her of its intentions on Friday, Sept. 29, just before the start of Yom Kippur. The DHS source indicated that the Comfort Inn is being used on an emergency basis under a court order to provide shelter at all times, and therefore is not obligated to provide notice well ahead of time.
Isaac McGinn, a DHS spokesperson, said that the Comfort Inn is being used in a temporary capacity. It is the only facility serving homeless individuals within the confines of Community Board 9, which includes Kew Gardens, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven.
McGinn further added that the city plans to stop using the Comfort Inn and other hotels in Queens to house the homeless in the months to come as it enacts the “Turning the Tide” homelessness program that the de Blasio administration announced earlier this year.
“Comprehensive closure of all remaining commercial hotel facilities will follow cluster closures closely,” McGinn said. “In the interim, while we are phasing out cluster units as first priority and increasing high-quality borough-based shelter capacity citywide, we are using commercial hotels like this location as a bridge to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers, including families with children, who would otherwise be turned out into the street.”
The move comes as the city continues to grapple with an ongoing homelessness crisis in which some 60,000 people sleep in temporary or permanent shelters, or on the streets, every evening. In recent years, the city has turned to hotels across Queens to house homeless men, women and children, incurring the wrath of local residents who either don’t want shelters in their backyard or believe the city ought to do more to help the homeless than house them in hotel rooms at taxpayers’ expense.
Under the “Turning the Tide” plan that Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this year, the city will eventually move the homeless out of hotels and into a network of 90 facilities to be developed citywide. The city announced in August that it would phase out using one hotel — a Holiday Inn Express in Corona — as a temporary homeless shelter in 2019. It previously stopped housing the homeless at two Bellerose hotels following community protests.
Even so, the DHS continues to use other Queens hotels as interim housing for homeless people. On Sept. 26, the DHS started moving homeless individuals into a Best Western Hotel in Sunnyside. As reported, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Community Board 2 were only notified the day that it happened.