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Cuomo asks governments to reopen homeless shelters

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
File photo/Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking local governments in New York state that have closed homeless shelters during the COVID-19 crisis to begin reopening those facilities, saying encampments of homeless people endanger public health.

Cuomo said there’s been an uptick in homeless encampments in areas of the state, particularly cities, and that he wants to see those individuals move into shelters.
“People have been complaining about them, as they should,” Cuomo said. “Not only is a homeless encampment a violation of that homeless person’s dignity, it’s also a public health threat.”

Cuomo claimed that local governments in New York state have closed homeless shelters during the COVID-19 crisis. New York City, to reduce density in those shelters, had moved a significant share of the shelter population into hotels during the pandemic.

As a result, Cuomo claimed, there’s less space for homeless individuals in those areas, where encampments have now popped up. That could be addressed if shelters started to reopen and resume normal operations, he said.

“The cities, counties also, should reopen their shelters,” Cuomo said. “We’ll put out guidance this week on COVID-safe, but they know basically how to make a facility COVID-safe because they’ve been doing it on a number of applications.”

Cuomo said he didn’t foresee funding being a problem for local governments to reopen those shelters. Many local governments, like the state, have been cash-strapped throughout the pandemic and have called for assistance from the state and federal governments.