They described it inside as hot and crowded with horrible food and few services for the disabled and those struggling to get sober.
"You gotta sit here dyin, either slowly or quickly-either way there's no upside to be being in this place," said former shelter resident Shams DaBaron. "This is death for us!"
In the last few weeks, the mayor has pushed to get more homeless people off the street, calling shelters safe.
Also, as vaccinations go up, he is transferring thousands from motels and hotels back into shelters.
"I feel very unsafe, I'm a veteran," said Antonio Villafane.
Plenty of shelter residents like Villafane said shelters are more like jail.
"Jail environment the only reason I stayed on the subway instead of coming here is because of a jail environment," said shelter resident Jose Fussa. "I came out of jail to come into another jail environment. You know what I mean? It's just not safe."
"First of off-nobody should be here, nobody should be in this building right now, we all know about the delta variant," said City Council member Steve Levin.
Elected officials surprised shelter operators Monday with their visit.
They were allowed to go inside but with no reporters. Later, they called the mayor's vision of large homeless shelters a mistake.
"None of us have been happy with the way this administration has handled housing and homelessness," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. "In the past seven years, six months, and I don't know if that's going to be reversed in four months. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't."
Williams says he's hopeful Eric Adams, likely the next mayor Jan. 1, will change the city shelter system and move more people into apartments.
Right now there are about 50,000 homeless New Yorkers living in shelters. That's down dramatically from the all-time record of 64,000 two and a half years ago.
ALSO READ | Gov. Kathy Hochul on 'unprecedented' subway outage: 'The system failed you'
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* More New York City news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube
Submit a News Tip