Hundreds of NYC homeless relocated after contract dispute

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As the holidays approach and the number of COVID cases increases, thousands of homeless people and families in New York City are being forced to switch shelters.

It's due, in part, to contract troubles with a city contractor and allegations of mismanagement, which the contractor denies.

Still, the people who need a place to live the most say they feel like they're caught in the middle.

For the approximately 100 people staying at a hotel shelter in the Bronx off Brook Avenue, they were told on short notice to pack up their belongings and to get on a bus.

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The city transferred them to a new shelter location over the past week.

"They could've handled this way better," shelter resident Natasha Bryant said.

She said she didn't know where she was going until the night before.

"You're learning everything new again, every time you move from place to place," she said. "It's very frustrating."

Some shelter residents said it's the third time they're being transferred this year.

The city is closing not just the hotel shelter in the Bronx, but more than a dozen others -- and transitioning approximately 2,000 people to other places and providers.

There's also a larger effort underway to transition the homeless out of all commercial hotels.

The city said it canceled its multi-million dollar contract with CORE Services Group, a nonprofit that ran 15 homeless shelters for the city, after a number of accusations of mismanagement.

It's something CORE denies, saying it operates with "expertise" and "integrity."

The city is now moving everyone to different shelters and providers.

"At the end of the day, we are just a list of names on a piece of paper," Bryant said. "It's very easy to take that list of names and slap it on another pile and say it's done."

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A spokesperson for the city sent a statement, saying:

"We and the mayor were crystal clear that if CORE did not reform in response to our corrective actions, the city would have no choice but to end our relationship with them. From declining to step aside or allow an interim CEO to refusing to sign the updated CAP, which laid out the steps they needed to take to come into compliance with city policy, CORE's repeated defiance has made clear they do not intend to change their ways or get their act together. So we're following through: after failing to cooperate with our enforcement, we are phasing out this shelter provider altogether, including by closing several sites and transitioning the remaining locations to other providers."

CORE responded with its own statement:

"CORE has repeatedly to tried to engage with DHS to address any questions the agency raised. Consistent with those discussions, CORE submitted a written plan to DHS on September 15th and then again on November 4th that directly addressed DHS' questions. DHS then dismissed CORE's good-faith proposal as 'unacceptable,' without any explanation. CORE determined that after having provided over $33 million in unpaid services to DHS, it made sense to request that DHS release it from its contracts with an orderly transition process. We are deeply disappointed by DHS' response and the unfair burden it places on our clients and staff. CORE plays an integral role in the communities we serve. Our clients depend on the services we provide to get back on their feet and, in many cases, re-establish ties with their family and community. We are extremely proud of our dedicated staff, who continue to work tirelessly servicing the needs of New York's homeless individuals and families with children with the dignity and respect they deserve. CORE operates with the highest degree of expertise and integrity - and with full transparency."

However, none of what's going on matters to the women who are switching shelters again, who said they feel like pawns.

"It's frustrating," Bryant said.

They're worried a new mailing address could mean a missed job opportunity and a setback from getting back on their feet.

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