NEW YORK — As Guadalupe Fernandez-Soberon told her story, tears fell from her eyes.
“We are human beings,” she told NY1. “We are poor, but we are still human beings and our lives matter. We feel like we are human cargo.”
What You Need To Know
- Legal Aid Society: city has agreed to pause the transfer of 150 homeless families in Midtown
- That would have made way for homeless men from an Upper West Side hotel
- Men from the Lucerne Hotel were supposed to start moving into the Harmonia Shelter this weekend and into next week
- It's all fallout from policy to house people experiencing homelessness in hotels to protect them from COVID-19 spread
Fernandez-Soberon was transferred out of the Harmonia Shelter on 31st Street on Thursday to make room for men who had been staying at a hotel on the Upper West Side. Fernandez-Soberon has mobility issues and uses a walker.
Her new homeless shelter in Queens has a bathtub, which she can’t get into. Her room at Harmonia was accessible.
Her situation is an unintended result of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to relocate hundreds of homeless men from a shelter on the Upper West Side to the Harmonia Shelter further downtown, displacing those families in the process. Those men were slated to be moved after residents complained uptown, citing open drug use and safety concerns. Those residents threatened to sue.
Now that controversy has moved here.
Fernandez-Soberon’s comfort is now an unfortunate consequence — and she’s not the only one. About 41 workers here could lose their jobs.
“As far as the staff, we worked through the shutdown” Harmonia cook Renee Jones told NY1 outside of the shelter Friday. "We put our lives and our families at risk and we still provided the services uninterrupted. So, yeah, they can lose their jobs and it's heart-wrenching.”
The Legal Aid Society has threatened to sue over the whole debacle. It now says the city has paused moving families out of the Harmonia as negotiations continue.
“Under threat of litigation the city has agreed to hold off on moving anybody else out of the Harmonia while we discuss what they need to do to make sure people are protected,” Josh Goldfein, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society, told NY1.
The city did not respond to a request for comment as of this writing.
On Friday, officials rallied outside of shelter, demanding these families stay put. Seventeen families out of the 150 that live in the shelter have already been transferred to other shelter facilities.
Inside, families were getting ready to move out. Some questioned whether these rooms would be big enough for single men to socially distance.
One resident showed us pictures of her space. It was already very tight:
“Enough room for two double beds together,” shelter resident Frankie Grosso told us. "And you can just get by, walking along one side of the bed. And then you have your closets. Two people can’t pass each other.”
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