FAQ: Housing Insecure or Homeless in NYC During Coronavirus

Written by JustFix.nyc
Updated 02/10/2021

While COVID-19 has created obstacles and concerns for all New York City tenants, and left many unable to pay rent due to financial hardship, housing insecure and homeless individuals in New York City remain especially vulnerable to the virus. This guide aggregates information and resources from our partners to support you if you are currently homeless or think you might lose stable housing.

Shelter Safety During Coronavirus

Shelters are supposed to provide crucial services for many vulnerable New Yorkers, and have remained open during the crisis. However, some shelters have been reported not to be implementing safety measures recommended by various health and governmental agencies, such as social distancing or providing residents with masks. If you have seen such occurrences or experienced other problems while at a shelter, you can read the Shelter Problems info page created by the Coalition for the Homeless, or leave them a detailed message at their emergency hotline at 212-776-2177.

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Unsheltered and Homeless Individuals

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued guidelines for the protection of those living on the streets during the coronavirus, which included the following call to “not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19 unless you have real-time access to individual rooms or units for ALL households in the encampment and a clear plan to safely transport those households.” This recommendation is supported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well, but there have still been reports of encampments being cleared during the pandemic. 

Additional clearings occurred when Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered nightly subway cleanings, shutting down the transit system for four hours at a time, leaving dozens of people without a place to sleep. 

If you have found yourself without a place to stay or live during the pandemic, you can share your story with the Homeless Can’t Stay Home Coalition, an advocacy project led by homeless organizing groups in NYC.

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Help Us Protect NYC’s Homeless During COVID‑19

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across our nation and communities, homeless New Yorkers continue to be among the most vulnerable to the virus. The city finally began to meet the demands of housing and tenant advocacy organizations in late April, and transfer homeless individuals and those in shelters to vacant hotel rooms. 

New York City’s hotel occupancy has declined sharply since the pandemic arrived in March, which prompted activists to push Mayor Bill de Blasio to use 30,000 vacant hotel rooms as shelter for unhoused New Yorkers. Despite continued opposition from some local residents, the program has moved 13,000 people from congregate shelters into hotels. As a spokesperson from the New York City Department of Homeless Services told NY1, “our data shows these actions have saved lives.” 

But more still needs to be done to protect NYC homeless populations, which face a disproportionately high mortality rate according to a June report from Coalition for the Homeless. To help make sure no one in NYC is without housing, you can:

  1. Support the campaign for Home Stability Support (HSS) by signing the petition to ask Governor Cuomo to adopt HSS and end homelessness, or by making a call to Governor Cuomo at 518-474-8390 to fund HSS.

  2. Be a part of the Homeless Can’t Stay Home campaign to ensure hotel housing, end encampment sweeps, and create a pathway to permanent homes for the homeless and tell Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to protect homeless New Yorkers.

  3. Join the Housing Justice for All Coalition’s efforts to pass their remaining two COVD-19 housing relief bills to cancel rent and expand stable housing options for the homeless, and sign the petition to reclaim our homes.

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Get more housing resources

You can count on the JustFix.nyc Learning Center to have more NYC housing updates during COVID-19. While JustFix.nyc does not provide direct services for unhoused people, we have compiled below some state and local organizations that can help you with finding secure housing:

CAMBA

CAMBA offers a number of homelessness prevention services, through the New York City Department of Homeless Services Homebase program, and through their own mobile services provider, the You Can Van. These include emergency food and utilities, job training and job placement, informal and formal mediation, budget counseling and advocacy, including referrals to Public Assistance, among other supportive services, helping clients avoid the shelter system. Visit their website for more information. 

Coalition for the Homeless Resource Guide

This database is an up-to-date catalog of all the service available to any person without permanent, stable housing. You can search the services near you by choosing the type of services you are looking for, looking up keywords, or typing in your zip code.

Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights Helpline

The Homeless Rights Project at Legal Aid Society provides law reform representation to homeless families and individuals. Their helpline is accessible at 800-649-9125 on Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Homeless Services United Member Network

To serve families at risk of homelessness or those who already do not have housing, over 50 organizations across NYC have banded together. This list of groups can be reached out to for services related to housing, eviction, homelessness, and more.

Supportive Housing Network of New York

The Network has contracts with several non profit affordable housing developments that may have supportive housing available to homeless people. You may be eligible for this type of housing if you have ongoing mental health issues, are a veteran, use Medicaid, or are in need of other social services. You can contact the housing providers listed here for more info.

Unlock NYC

If you have been given a housing voucher and are struggling to find a place that accepts it, you may be facing illegal discrimination from a broker or landlord. Unlock NYC has a free chatbot that you can use on your phone or any computer to report any disheartening experiences that you have had while trying to use your voucher to get stable housing.

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