New York Mayor Will Be Asking Residents, Churches To Open Their Doors to Asylum-Seekers Overwhelming City

Mayor Adams will be offering subsidies for taking in asylum seekers and pleads for federal support as the city seeks relief from its ‘right to shelter’ law.

AP/John Minchillo
Parents and community members march through the residential neighborhood around P.S. 189 to protest Mayor Adams's plan to house immigrants in the school's gymnasium. AP/John Minchillo

The mayor of New York, Eric Adams, will be seeking to place migrants in houses of worship and private residences, as officials scramble to accommodate and provide services to tens of thousands of new arrivals.

Mr. Adams will also be pleading for federal and state support to address the crisis, spurred partly by a 1980s court ruling that obligates the city to provide temporary housing to anyone in need.

The new initiatives add to New York City’s efforts to house migrants and asylum seekers in shelters, hotels, school gyms, an airport hangar, and areas outside the city. New York City is caring for more than 46,000 asylum seekers and has received more than 72,000 arrivals since last spring, the mayor’s office said, overwhelming the shelter system. 

The initiative to house migrants in houses of worship — a two-year partnership with the New York Disaster Interfaith Services — will provide space for close to 1,000 asylum seekers. It will allow up to 50 churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples to each offer shelter to up to 19 single adult men. The city has already opened more than 160 sites for migrants.

“No matter what faith you practice, it is in all of our faiths that we are supposed to care for those who are in need,” Mr. Adams, flanked by local religious leaders, said at a Monday press conference. “Through hard times and difficult times, our faith leaders have been there for New Yorkers over and over again, and we believe this is a step in another direction that we can take to help address this crisis.”

In addition to shelter, the houses of worship will provide meals, clothing, and other services.

Mr. Adams also floated the idea of housing migrants in private residences in a plan that is still being formulated. The city would subsidize families and private landlords for hosting the asylum seekers, Mr. Adams said, without providing details.

The mayor said the crisis has cost the city more than $1.2 billion this fiscal year and is projected to add up to $4.3 billion by June 2024. The federal government has provided New York City less than $40 million, enough to cover costs for only five days, Mr. Adams said. He pitched the new initiatives as a way to mitigate the financial burden for local communities and better integrate the new arrivals.

“There are residents who are suffering right now due to economic challenges. They have spare rooms,” Mr. Adams said. “We can put it back in the pockets of everyday New Yorkers, everyday houses of worship, instead of putting it in the pockets of corporations.”

He also called for the federal government to enact immigration reform and a “decompression strategy” at the border, calling the city’s burden “not sustainable.”

New York City is required to provide housing due to a “right to shelter” ruling issued by the New York state supreme court in 1979. A homeless man with chronic alcoholism filed a class action, Callahan v. Carey, on behalf of all homeless people in New York City, arguing for a constitutional right to shelter. The court interpreted an article in the state constitution as obligating the city to provide shelter to homeless people, and after two years of negotiations, the city and state inked a consent decree, establishing the right to shelter for anyone who meets a qualifying standard.

No other major cities are subject to such a requirement, burdening New York City as Republican governors ferry migrants north.

Mr. Adams asked a New York City judge to modify the ruling due to the migrant crisis late last month, saying the law was not meant to accommodate such an influx of asylum seekers.

“It is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Mr. Adams said in a statement. “Our city has done more to support asylum seekers than any other city in the nation, but the unfortunate reality is that the city has extended itself further than its resources will allow.” 

The request did not seek to permanently end the right to shelter, but asked that the law be modified to allow the city to deny housing to homeless adults and adult families if the city lacks the resources and capacity to shelter them.

The New York Sun

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