Despite reassurances from politicians that there are no sex offenders at the three new homeless shelters on the Upper West Side, the city can’t bar all sex offenders from city shelters, according to Isaac McGinn, spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).
Only sex offenders deemed “residency restricted” can be banned from shelters that are less than 1,000 feet from schools or child-care facilities, McGinn explained. Gaining that designation depends on factors like the severity of the offense and the offender’s criminal justice status.
It appears that the city had to scramble to make sure no residency-restricted clients are living in the UWS hotels that have been converted into homeless shelters — the Hotel Belleclaire (77th & Broadway), the Belnord Hotel (87th & Broadway), and The Lucerne (79th & Amsterdam). One of the residents at the Belleclaire with a residency restricted sex offender status was just transferred away in recent days.
Hotel conversions such as these are going on throughout the five boroughs, in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus by emptying congregate (dormitory-style) shelters, which make social distancing impossible, into hotels with single and double rooms.
On Monday, 283 men from two congregate shelters on the Lower East Side were transferred to The Lucerne. City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal spoke outside the hotel with a contingent from the community and a WSR reporter. Rosenthal said she had spoken to a city commissioner earlier that morning, who had assured her that there would be no sex offenders living at this site.
But DHS says it can’t unilaterally bar all sex offenders from shelters.