City Hall About to Put Migrants in Shelters on Shorter Clocks

City Hall About to Put Migrants in Shelters on Shorter Clocks
Migrants outside of a shelter in Brooklyn. Alex Krales/THE CITY
By Gwynne Hogan | SEP 19, 2023
Adults who reapply for shelter will have just 30 days, and families with children may be given their own deadline for the first time.

Adult migrants reentering city shelters will have just 30 days for that stay, an administration source familiar told THE CITY, while City Hall is also considering putting migrant families with children on a 60-day clock to leave shelters.

The new, shorter timeframe will apply to migrants in shelters who received one of the 60-day notices the city started sending out in July, with those beginning to come due this Saturday.

At the same time, the administration is considering further restrictions, including giving new entrants to the system just 30 days from the get go, as well as phasing in 60-day notices for migrant families with children, the administration source said. Both moves would fit with City Hall’s efforts to move migrants out of shelters and discourage new arrivals from coming.

Families, including migrant parents with school-aged children, made up 40,600 of the 56,633 people in city shelters at of the end of July.

“Why would you do that to a family with children who are in school?”Joshua Goldfein, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, which represents the Coalition for the Homeless, said of the new policy City Hall is considering. “That seems like a terrible idea.”

Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for Adams, declined to comment on the coming 30-day notices for adult migrants or the administration’s deliberations about issuing 60-day notices to families with children.

“With hundreds of additional migrants arriving every day, we are exceptionally proud that our enhanced casework services are working and expect it to continue to be effective for the adult asylum seekers who have received 60-day notices,” she said.

“If we do not receive the meaningful help we’ve been calling for from our state and federal partners, we will have to make more difficult decisions and it is possible we will see more heartbreaking realities, like the one we saw outside the Roosevelt Hotel this summer,” she added, referring to the scenes in late July and early August, when migrants slept outside the city’s “welcome center” at the hotel in midtown for nights on end.

There were 112,800 people, including 59,900 migrants, staying in city shelters as of Sept. 10.

In an effort to begin to curb the ballooning shelter census, city officials began issuing 60-day eviction notices to adult migrants in July, with 10,800 distributed through Sept. 11, according to city officials. The first recipients of the notices have until Sept. 24, and many migrants facing the deadline described uncertainty about where they might end up.

Migrants who haven’t found a place of their own after 60 days are supposed to return to the Roosevelt Hotel to “apply for another housing assistance option, which could include a faith or community based organization or placement in a hotel in upstate New York,” according to notices they received from the city.

‘Human Beings, Not Numbers’

The state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, which oversees Department of Homeless Services shelters, has refused to grant the city permission to issue 60-day warnings in the shelters that it oversees.

Instead the notices have gone out to thousands of adults staying in the city’s “humanitarian resource and relief centers” overseen by the Health and Hospitals Corporation and the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation, and in “respite centers” meant for even shorter-term stays and overseen by the Office of Emergency Management.

According to data provided to the City Council in July, 4,107 single adult migrants were staying in DHS shelters, while 7,510 were in those overseen by other agencies.

Countless migrants are already being regularly shuttled between shelters with limited or no warning, as certain facilities come online while others close. It’s a process similar top how the city’s traditional shelter system handles transfers, which has been criticized as destabilizing and traumatic.

Migrants sleeping outside of the Roosevelt Hotel in July. Gwynne Hogan/THE CITY

Murad Awawdeh, the Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition, slammed the ticking clock for adult migrants in the shelter system, and said it would be disastrous to extend that to families with children.

“A limit on anyone’s time in shelter — whether they are a child or an adult — is shirking the city’s responsibility to our newest New Yorkers. The Mayor needs to stop purposely making our shelter system inhospitable, and start implementing actual long-term solutions for housing,” Awawdeh said. “These are human beings, not numbers on a beaurocrat’s spreadsheet.”

Race to the Bottom

Mayor Eric Adams’s rhetoric has become increasingly alarmist in recent weeks, with him telling an audience of Upper West Siders saying migrants were “destroying” the city. While City Hall later insisted that he’d meant the migrant crisis rather than the migrants themselves, his remarks were subsequently lauded by Neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer, the Daily News reported.

Adams later warned that the city might have to move families with children into large-scale tent shelters, which up until this point have been exclusively used to house adult migrants and which would violate state and local laws barring kids from being housed in congregate settings.

His administration is also requiring all city agencies to come up with a plan to reduce their budgets by 5 percent by November, with two additional rounds of 5 percent cuts scheduled for the coming months. Those were necessary, City Hall has said, because it expects to pay $4 billion a year over the next three fiscal years to shelter and otherwise care for migrants.

But the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit and nonpartisan civic organization, has pushed back on that math, noting that less than half of the projected deficit the cuts are meant to fill is attributable to the services provided to migrants.

City Hall officials have faced criticism from state and federal officials for failing to keep tabs on migrants in city shelters, including basic information like who is eligible for work authorization. Only around 800 people have applied for work authorization to date, the New York Post reported this week using data from City Hall. The paper also noted that only about a quarter of the migrants in shelters have applied for asylum, which kicks off the 180-day waiting period before many of them can then apply for work authorization.

Asylum seekers at a rally for work permits. Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Adams has repeatedly called on the Biden Administration to deliver more help, including by speeding up the time table in which asylum seekers can apply to work. Last week, City Hall announced a “three-week sprint” to survey all 40,000 adult migrants in city shelters to figure out who is eligible for work authorization. Migrants who were released at the border with “humanitarian parole” can sidestep the 180-day waiting period, but may not know that.

The budget cuts, and policy shifts, come as the city continues scaling up large-scale shelters for migrants, with around 3,200 new arrivals in the week ending Sept. 10. Large tent shelters have opened on Randall’s Island and at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, and most recently, a Long Island City office building is slated to house around 1,000 migrants.

On Friday, administration officials finally hammered out a deal with state and federal partners to use Floyd Bennett Field for another large-scale migrant shelter, which the state will reimburse the city for.

The terms of the year-long, $20 million lease for the former airfield in southern Brooklyn that’s a long way from the nearest school, supermarket or train station, allows for a maximum of 2,000 people to live there to start, though the city could later increase the capacity there “if doing so is consistent with all compliance requirements.”

This story was published by THE CITY on September 19, 2023.

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