Mayor Eric Adams initiated an effort to get emergency shelter for people seeking asylum, building off a previous cry for federal support to aid a “historical surge” of asylum seekers flocking to New York City from southern borders.

“New York is a city of immigrants, and we will always welcome newcomers with open arms. Over the past two months, we have seen a significant increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in our city’s shelter system,” said Adams in a statement on Monday.

About 4,000 asylum seekers have entered the city’s shelter system since late May and more than 100 additional asylum seekers on average are looking for housing each day, said the Mayor’s office. The “conservative estimate” of asylum seekers is based on interviews with those who have arrived, but since the city doesn’t track an individual’s immigration status or ask about it during intake, the numbers are incomplete. 

Adams said in order to fulfill the city’s legal and moral mandate as a ‘right to shelter city,’ the administration will provide quality shelter to anyone experiencing homelessness and appropriate services to asylum seekers, regardless of an “overburdened” shelter system.

On July 21, in a presser, Adams said that the current shelter system is incredibly burdened as an explanation as to why the administration narrowly failed, about two weeks ago, to house four families under the time limit by state law. He said that the families weren’t placed in time, but they were found housing within 24 hours.

Adams bristled at “insinuations” of asylum seekers sleeping on the floor for days waiting for shelter, going hungry, or any inhumane treatment. He also said it was wrong for bordering states to turn people away that needed refuge in the first place.

Adams issued an emergency procurement declaration to “rapidly procure additional shelter and services to serve these individuals and families.”

In the declaration, the Department of Homeless Services said that the “expected census and shelter capacity” will not be able to help the asylum-seeking population that has arrived in the past few months because it was “not anticipated when determining capacity needs.” Additionally, asylum seekers need specialized services, like lawyers and advocates in their cases, that are not available or appropriate within the current shelter system.

Because of the asylum-seeking population, the city will be opening stand-alone facilities run by nonprofit providers during the continued housing crisis. “We are working across city agencies and with not-for-profit partners to ensure these individuals have access to a range of services, including legal support, health care, and education,” said Adams. 

Comptroller Brad Lander added in a statement that his office would work closely with the Adams administration to appropriately expedite contracts for families urgently seeking asylum.

“We can no longer wait—and this declaration will allow the city to procure sorely needed additional resources as quickly as possible,” said Adams. “We are deeply committed to providing shelter and support to everyone who needs it, and we cannot do this work alone. We will continue to work with federal and state partners to procure additional financial resources immediately.” 

On July 28, Speaker Adrienne Adams and Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala scheduled a hybrid hearing for Tuesday, Aug. 9, to discuss long-term issues in the city’s shelter system and the influx of asylum seekers. 

“New York City is in the midst of a housing crisis that is exacerbating homelessness and must be confronted with expanded access to affordable housing. We also know that the shelter system has suffered from long standing issues that are unacceptable and must be addressed,” said Speaker Adams and Ayala in a joint statement.

The City has a responsibility to ensure adequate conditions in the shelter system for all residents, they said.

“The Council will hold a critical oversight hearing to examine how the mayor’s administration is handling these issues to uncover the real challenges and identify solutions. It is crucial for us to be clear about the steps needed to ensure access to safe temporary shelter and a pathway to permanent affordable housing for people in our city,” they said.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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