New York City has begun transferring more than 400 children and their families out of two homeless shelters, citing deplorable conditions, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday.
The two shelters — one in lower Manhattan and one in Fort Greene, Brooklyn — have been cited for hundreds of repeated violations and hazards, including vermin, mold, lead exposure, faulty fire safety systems and even the presence of sexual predators, reported the New York Times. The administration is finding subsidized permanent housing or suitable temporary shelter for families that are being relocated, officials said.
The move comes after a recent series in the Times that detailed conditions in the shelters. One story followed an 11-year old, Dasani, who lived in the Fort Greene shelter with her family, where she slept on a mattress next to mice-infested walls and her baby sister was warmed in her crib by a hair dryer. She is among 280 children who have been living in the shelter where sexual predators roam and mold climbs the walls of filthy shared bathrooms.
There are 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression. More than 20 percent of New Yorkers fall below the federal poverty line — or about 2 million people, according to the Census Bureau. Anchors like affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage have dried up as inequality rises in the wealthy metropolis where the rich get richer and the poor are getting poorer.
The transition plan for both the shelters will cost the city more than $13 million, and the city is looking at better solutions for its rising tide of 52,000 homeless, a peak since the Great Depression.
"There are major American cities that have the same population as we have had in a shelter," de Blasio said in a press conference. "We have to look this in the face. This is literally an unacceptable dynamic, and we have to reverse it."