NEW YORK — Homeless men left the Lucerne hotel on the Upper West Side. There were about 280 homeless men living there at one point, but about 70 men were moved Monday.

What You Need To Know

  • The program was meant to help to stop the spread of COVID-19 in homeless shelters

  • Legal battles forced them back into shelters

  • Residents in the area said it decreased quality of life

"They pick and choose! We've been here for three years in the shelter!" said one man who was moved from the Lucerne. "They put their people in the apartment!"

After legal battles, the Lucerne's residents were sent back to a homeless shelter.

"They leave us there with no apartment, no nothing!" the man added.

They were placed at the hotel during the height of the coronavirus pandemic as part of a plan by the Department of Homeless Services to create temporary housing and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in homeless shelters. Some residents on the Upper West Side argued it decreased quality of life in the area.

"I do think it was the right thing to do," said resident Rob Lister, who has been living in the neighborhood for five years. "It was distressing to see people who weren’t in such great shape out on the street corners, on the medians … You'd see drugs and needles and things like that."

"I feel there's no easy answer for this. These are people that obviously need help, that need homes, that need treatment," Lister said. "At the same time, I don't know if a hotel is the best place to be in a residential neighborhood."

Outside the Lucerne, sidewalk art covered the pavement. "Housing is a human right" was drawn right outside the front doors.

Kathleen Donnison, who's been living in the area for 40 years, agrees.

“I was very upset with the movement against them being here," Donnison said. "It's that 'not in my backyard' and 'This is the Upper West Side, we can't have this happening' — you know, these people are homeless and they need to be helped, and I hope that they're going to a better place."

"My plan is to get housing, hopefully soon," said a homeless man who had to leave the hotel.

But until then, he says all he can do is hope.

"Just be patient," he said. "Maybe they'll provide us with something."

The city phased out the program that served about 9,000 people. City officials said it was time to end the program with health indicators pointed in the right direction.


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