Hotel Gets Surprise Guests When City Books 100 Rooms For The Homeless

November 19, 2014 | Rhett Jones

When Pierre Merhej, the manager of the Radisson Hotel near JFK airport received a call from the city seeking 100 hotel rooms for a government group, he did not expect the guests to be homeless people seeking shelter. “When you say they have a government group, as hotel people we like government groups,” Merhej told DNAinfo.

The hotel manager was not particularly thrilled to find that the Department of Homeless Services wasn’t booking rooms for a conference, but instead wanted to temporarily house 100 shelter applicants while they awaited their 10-day processing. According to a city spokesman:

“DHS has always used temporary spaces for families as they await eligibility determinations to come into shelter. This is a short term measure and ensures that no family is without shelter as the temperatures drop.”

The 10-day residency for the homeless ended on Tuesday. It just so turned out that Tuesday also set a record low in New York, demonstrating the urgency of temporary housing. However, DNAinfo reported, “It’s not clear where the residents will be moved to next.”

The de Blasio administration has vowed to do more to help NYC’s ever-increasing homeless population, which is reportedly 58,000 people at the moment.

For his part, Merhej said he won’t be housing any more homeless people in the hotel for the sake of its reputation, but he also said that it really didn’t have an impact on the regular guests. “This is a hotel, not a shelter, and we want to keep it this way,” he told the site. “We have a business to run and a reputation to keep and we intend on keeping it.”

(Photo: Jinho Jung)