Homeless are Staying in NYC Hotels. Do You Have a Right to Know If They’re in the Next Room?

A couple of years ago I wrote about the Radisson JFK being used as a homeless shelter. They have to go somewhere since New York LaGuardia now kicks them out.

I was torn over this. The Radisson JFK always struck me as likely around the upper range of what most homeless shelters are like. Which is really just saying it’s about average for a hotel near JFK airport. Customers don’t like staying in hotels where the largest in-house group are homeless, but I do think they have a right to stay on property if the going rate is being paid for their accommodations.

Credit: Radisson JFK

In fact thousands of New York homeless are being put up in hotels — and they don’t even get good rates. In fact they pay a premium over other guests even though the city books up to 70 room blocks for months at a time. New York’s city government must not be booking direct.

You’d think they would use a corporate booking code, surely with their volume they could do as well as an IBM rate? Or just search for a deal at Trivago.

New York City spent $72 million on hotel rooms for the homeless last year. In fairness, cost comparisons suggesting possible savings are to a hotel’s lowest available rate which may offer limited inventory, not for half a property’s inventory on a given night.

And given the reputational costs to a hotel, the hit they may take with other guests, it’s not unreasonable to think they’d demand a premium (not to mention the premium for working with and billing the city).

Now one City Council member has introduced legislation that would require hotels to notify other guests when accepting the city’s homeless. (HT: Alan H.)

[T]he Comfort Inn and the Days Inn & Suites on Redding Street in Ozone Park had homeless people moved in late last year, and city documents state the former might see all of the rooms be used as temporary shelters.

“The public has a right to know whether or not that hotel or that motel is also being used as a temporary homeless shelter,”

…At press time, the number of homeless people staying in city shelters was at 58,803, according to the Department of Homeless Services. That’s down from more than 60,000 earlier this year.

The goal seems to be to embarrass Mayor de Blasio and to “‘scare the daylights’ out of hotel owners profiting off the homeless crisis.” Put another way, hotel owners won’t want to house the homeless if they have to announce they’re doing it. Which seems like a bad idea without an alternate plan for housing the homeless in place.

And I don’t think guests generally have a right to know who else is staying at a hotel, just as no one has a right to know that I am staying there. I was thrilled when the Supreme Court struck down a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel records be made available to police upon request. When I sign a group contract, I don’t think the hotel should or should have to notify other guests, and that the group in this case is of people without homes doesn’t change that.

Perhaps this Council member ought to have the city teach the homeless to sign up for credit cards and use the bonuses to stay at Marriotts. Or pick up an Amtrak credit card, book a sleeper car with the points and just stay onboard as a stow away.

Copyright: tdezenzio / 123RF Stock Photo

A complementary strategy would be to save up collecting cans in the airport and buy the cheapest changeable business class ticket possible and eat free for a year like this guy did, and even have access to complimentary showers.

The problem of homelessness is a difficult one. The moral question of housing them alongside hotel guests is a challenging one. Using the issue as a political football seems wrong.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Of course we have no right to know the identity of other hotel guests. Period. Sorry, but this headline and even the very thought is inapproriate. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    The assumption that anyone might need to know the identity of other guests because they may be homeless is based entirely on pitiful fear and unfounded prejudice. If somoene is that afraid, they shouldn’t leave home and be exposed to anyone or anything besides their own paranoia.

    If we have learned anything from the tragic events in Charlottesville and the pitiful inability of a President to call out the true perpetrators, it should be that we are responsible to call out prejudice and nonsense whenever we see it. I see it here. Please stop.

  2. Please note that my comments above were intended for the horrible City Council mmeber. Not towards Gary! Sorry for that possible confusion!

  3. Absolutely you should have the right to know. Most homeless are not homeless because of poverty, they are homeless due to mental illness. I have had many scary violent confrontations with mentally ill people before and I certainly don’t want my daughter staying in an “institution” unknowingly.

  4. Just like it would be moronic to buy a home in a Section 8 neighborhood, I would definitely not stay in a hotel turned homeless shelter.

    @Bill: Does it hurt when you think. You are a retard. But a hacksaw and try getting rid of your extra chromosome.

  5. Thank you Brian, please post a comment here to let me know where you are staying and when, as I would not want to be in a room in the same hotel as you.

  6. I can’t believe so much money are wasted on the hotel at premium rate. The NYC mayor should not waste tax payer’s money like this. It’s just terrible!

  7. “The moral question of housing them alongside hotel guests is a challenging one.”

    There’s no moral question there. There’s nothing immoral about it at all. People who have views of homelessness based on stigma and stereotypes create a problem.
    The moral question associated with homelessness is that exists at all.

  8. This topic again? Must be a slow news day?

    Maybe someday those charities and private organizations will step up and solve our societal problems. I keep hearing that’s the real answer to all the problems we don’t want to pay for.

  9. “The moral question associated with homelessness is that exists at all.”
    No, the moral question is why the government feels compelled to take, i.e. steal, money from its citizens to pay for these types of things. As I always tell my daughter, “Go to the root of the problem and you’ll will almost always find government”.

  10. Just another example of the corrupt and incompent NYC government spending other people’s money recklessly. There are dozens of examples in NYC. The only thing politicians can do is scream for more money to waste.

  11. One comment: I wonder if they check the homeless for bedbugs before they check them into the hotel. LOL. I wonder if they check the passengers that stayed in these hotels for bedbugs before they fly.

  12. Why has everyone mounted their moral horse??
    I’m paying for a hotel, it would be nice to know that the hotel is in clean and fresh order. That would be extremely hard considering the homeless that I’ve seen in NY.
    Now I may not have a “right” to know the class of my fellow hotel guests. But be assured, you will get a real stinky rating when I find out during my stay.

    Bill, Gary, this is not an identity issue. No one is suggesting to reveal any personal details.

    The tax money is a whole separate issue. Many pros to keeping the homeless off the street. I can’t agree that hotels are the place but hopefully it is just temporarily. Though that could be 15 years at government pace.

  13. No. But I would like to know if I’m sharing a hotel with a smug, pompous, self-important nitwit like Gary and like minded folks. I’d share a room with a homeless person before sharing a property with such people.

  14. Judging by the responses, it seems that some people would welcome sharing a hotel with homeless people, while others would not. So why not disclose this information so everyone can make an informed choice? Everybody’s happy!

  15. How about this: replace the word “homeless” with the word “Jewish”. Now is everybody still fine with requiring disclosure? How about replacing it with “trump voters” or “Clinton voters”? Still all fine with requiring disclosure? Discrimination and invasion of privacy is the same for poor people as it is for rich people.

  16. @shannon

    absolutely agree.

    what a disgrace.

    they shld build low cost housing, or have a tender for interested parties to invest in low cost housing, outside of the city, in low cost rural areas, say within an hour or two rail commute of NYC, and give them tax payer funded free rail passes.

    so if they get to the point that they are willing to apply for a job, they can make the interview for free, and enjoy their accommodation for free too, courtesy of the taxpayers.

    that’s the genuinely fair solution for those impaired, or have difficulty finding employment for any reason.

    politicians, like the idiot mayor in NYC, wld rather spend tax payers money on heading overseas to Europe, when he’s failed locally, NYC has really gone downhill since Rudy Giuliani, and Bloomberg.

    Sad disgrace, Times Square, women walking around with nothing on but body paint, taking pics with tourists for cash, non taxable income. Urine smelling subways, and escalating crime rate.

  17. If NYC instead invested $72 million yearly to build housing for the homeless, there will be no homeless.

  18. Lol. Everybody are looking to be politically correct and spread the love of god while being hypocrite at it.

    Do they dress properly? Do they smell? Do they have good attitude? Do you feel safe them being around your kids? When a bussiness partner comes to your hotel, are you comfortable with them around?

    Homeless is government problem, they deal with it. Hotels have the right to refuse tenant.

    And Gary, you are an IDIOT. The homeless may pay (by the govt) the premium rate which provide income to the hotel. But at the same time ruining a brand image which took time and money to build, which worth more than a few days of income. Think longterm like an educated person, not a stupid hypocritical mindset.

  19. @Farnorthtrader: You would think differently if you brought bedbugs home after staying in a homeless hotel.

  20. Even if this ordinance were passed you would still not know if the person in the room over is a drug dealer or prostitute.

  21. Do homeless people have rights to privacy? Or do they forego these as a result of misfortune?

  22. @otherjustsaying, do you have any evidence that bed bugs prefer homeless people? Do you know the first thing about bed bugs? They couldn’t care less how clean or dirty you are. They can’t be killed by anything that hotels are allowed to use while keeping the room in operation since the US banned the use of DDT. I frankly don’t care whether I bring bedbugs home from a “homeless hotel” or the ritz Carlton, they are going to be the same problem. The reality is that you are more likely to pick up bed bugs in a high end tourist hotel than in a “homeless hotel” because the patrons of the high end hotel can afford to travel extensively, providing more opportunity to move them from place to place and there are far more different guests that go through any individual room. Those guests have been in many hotels around the world, and travelled in numerous airplanes, rental cars or cabs which are also sources for bedbugs (pretty much anything upholstered). You are also far less likely to get any warning about them because those hotels can afford to pay to keep the effected guests quiet.

  23. It seems many are jumping to the conclusion that homeless equates to the people you see sleeping on a park bench, who hasn’t been able to shower for a week and that is not what all homelessness looks like. There are long term homeless people, many with mental illness but the hotel rooms are probably booked to house short term homeless people. Maybe a single mom who couldn’t pay her rent, so was evicted. Maybe a young family in that same situation. Maybe a battered wife, who had to get out. There are numerous reasons to be temporarily homeless and a temporarily homeless person probably would not “look” homeless. There are many faces of homelessness.

  24. Wait a minute! If someone has a fire, is out of their (burned) home, and the insurance company or the Red Cross puts them up in a hotel for a month or two while the problem is remedied, are they homeless? There are many causes for homelessness. Should there be disclosure? Would you object if they were otherwise wealthy? Why or why not?

    Seems to me to be a mess of stereotypes and implied discrimination, and the legislation is only an answer in search of a question.

  25. I don’t want to turn this into a moral question. Simply put, this is government targeting a minority. You might argue that it’s a way of restricting their housing options, which is, on its face, discriminatory and likely illegal. Fighting that legal battle would waste some money.

    Instead, let’s look at the research, which suggests that housing all the homeless in a single location is an extremely effective way of perpetuating homelessness and stereotypes.

    To suggest that the homeless are in any way different from the rest of the population, beyond not having a home, is to discriminate. I feel fortunate to live in a nation with laws that protect me against similar discrimination, at least from the government itself. Hopefully this is somehow legally protected, such as by declaring the choice of hotel as being made by the homeless individual, and therefore making such housing discrimination illegal (free speech and whatnot).

  26. “You’d think they would use a corporate booking code, surely with their volume they could do as well as an IBM rate?”

    Why Gary, thank you for indirectly underscoring why we New Yorkers pay the highest tax rates in America. Because we have clowns for politicians and meatballs for bureaucrats who don’t know how to negotiate contracts at normal rates. NYC always pays top dollar for everything — whether subway lines that take 75 years to build or repairing one mile of roadway.

    And now you’ve come across a dirty little secret that New Yorkers long knew but most tourists never did: our airport hotels are full of homeless whose rooms cost more than they would on any booking site

  27. forgetting all the debate regarding perceptions of what a homeless person may or may not be, i believe there is a responsibility to taxpayers, who ultimately fund this accommodation.

    why can’t the NYC Mayor be fiscally responsible, and house the homeless outside of what is an expensive city, at a reduced cost to tax payers?

    being an hour out of the city, and given a tax payer funded rail ticket to get them to the city, for potential work opportunities, would seem a totally reasonable solution.

    if i was homeless, for any reason, i’d be happy to be given a roof over my head, and a rail ticket to the city, even if it was a two hour journey.

  28. @Farnorthtrader. Yes, they should un-ban DDT to kill bed bugs and other insects that are a plague on mankind. Rachel Carson’s book “The Silent Spring” scared the sh*t out of me when I read it in the 6th grade. However, it is totally Fake Science. On the rest of your argument that homeless are not more likely to have bed bugs, you have got to be kidding. It has been estimated that over 20% of homeless shelters in New York have bed bugs. Any homeless person that stayed in one of these shelters is likely to have bed bugs. Further, homeless people are more likely to have a variety of diseases. I just picked bed bugs to illustrate. In addition to bed bugs, homeless are more likely to have hepatitis, tuberculosis, scabies, body lice, pneumonia, and any number of other infectious diseases. Finally, I guess this is the point where you start hurling with all the left wing ad hominem personal attacks at me. Maybe, but at least I am not spouting the silly premise that homeless people are not more likely to have bed bugs and other such diseases.

  29. No and absolutely not. If theres a problem, you complain. We all have the same rights. Homeless people included.

  30. Homeless shelters are full of dangers (e.g., thefts) and aren’t the cleanest places (e.g., bedbugs) because they are the first point of intake after people come off the street.

    I would hope extra cleaning measures are taken in said rooms.

    Also I’m not a fan of the private room idea. In shelters supervisors can oversee the residents to ensure there is no drug use etc….who knows what happens in a private hotel room.

  31. Nobody suggested revealing the identity of individuals, just the broad class homeless. It is no joke that homeless shelters have serious problems with bedbugs. The increased likihood of bedbugs would scare me off so I do think I have a right to know if I ask, the same as whether there’s a convention of clowns and I am scared of clowns.

  32. I don’t feel that the homeless should be placed in hotels. They either have mental illness or dependency problems in most cases. Build a shelter and place them there with the tax dollars wasted on hotel rooms. I don’t associate with homeless people on the street and don’t wish to associate with them at hotels. We have an abundance of them in Los Angeles and the majority of them are filthy pigs who leave their trash on the streets and have no problem defecating on the same streets. I highly doubt their hygiene will be different in a hotel.

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