City officials have ordered 22 New York churches to stop providing beds to homeless people.
With temperatures well below freezing early Saturday, the churches must obey a city rule requiring faith-based shelters to be open at least five days a week -- or not at all.
Arnold Cohen, president of the Partnership for the Homeless, a nonprofit that serves as a link with the city, said he had to tell the churches they no longer qualify.He said hundreds of people now won't have a place to sleep.
The Department of Homeless Services said the city offers other shelters with the capacity to accept all those who have been sleeping in the churches. The city had 8,000 beds waiting.Last year, four unsheltered homeless people died in the city during cold weather, so three dozen emergency outreach teams were prepped to respond to reports of homeless people outdoors or in the subways.
"We really don't want people sleeping on the streets, on grates, on church steps. We want people sleeping in beds," said Homeless Commissioner Robert Hess.
The homeless can be coaxed indoors but not forced unless their life is in danger.