Homeless New Yorkers remain vulnerable amid pandemic

Bernard Chavis moved from a Midtown Manhattan hotel back into the Jerome Avenue Men's Shelter in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx earlier this month.

"I know that homelessness is painted out to be this ugly monster but there are those individuals, who, like me, chose this for the betterment of my life and I really didn't bank on having to risk my health," he said.

Less than a week after he reentered the shelter system, he got a letter from homeless outreach advocates at BronxWorks, stating that someone he lives with had tested positive for COVID-19.

"I just think we're being hit with having to deal with this and the city's being forced to make decisions that they really aren't putting a lot of thought into with us in mind," Chavis added.

An analysis by the Coalition for the Homeless found that the mortality rate for New Yorkers living in the shelter system was 49% higher than the mortality rate for the general New York population. The increase was largely attributed to the rampant spread of COVID-19 in shelters, where residents like Luis Marrero say social distancing and quarantining are often impossible.

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"Coming out of that environment, coming here thinking about the COVID," Marrero told FOX 5 NY. "I'm an asthmatic. I worry about that, even though I got my two shots."

As of July 1, vaccination rates at homeless shelters hovered under 22%.

People who live there say drugs and mental health are two other major concerns.

NYC homeless returning to shelters after hotel stays

Mayor Bill de Blasio has not agreed to extend the hotel stays but his administration just raised the value of rental-assistance programs to help more shelter residents secure affordable housing. It goes into effect on Sept. 1.

The Department of Homeless Services has adjusted its relocation process to give clients at least seven days' written notice before their planned moves back into the shelter system.

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