New York City will begin limiting stays for adult asylum seekers in its shelter system to 60 days, Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday, saying the city had run out of space and needs to prioritize beds for families with children.
In the coming days, workers will start notifying asylum seekers staying in the city’s Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers of the new time limit, starting with single adults who’ve been in the city’s care “for a significant amount of time,” Adams said at a press briefing.
The city will provide them with extra case management help in seeking out alternative housing options; those who don’t find somewhere else to stay by the 60-day mark will need to reapply for shelter placement.
The administration said it has 105,800 people in its care, including 53,000 asylum seekers who remain out of the 90,100 who’ve come to the city since last year from the southern border, what the mayor described as “a funnel system” of migrants coming to New York and a handful of other cities.
“This cannot continue, it is not sustainable. And we’re not going to pretend as though it is sustainable,” Adams said, repeating calls for the state and federal government to step in with additional aid to manage the crisis. “New York City is carrying the weight of a national problem».
The city also created fliers to be distributed at the border, he said, to discourage those crossing from coming to the five boroughs. “Housing in NYC is very expensive,” the bright yellow poster reads. “Please consider another city as you make your decision about where to settle in the U.S.”
Homeless advocates quickly condemned the 60-day limit, saying it would only result in more people sleeping on the streets and in other public places. Rents across the city have reached record-highs in the last year, while the number of affordable apartments available has decreased.
“Mayor Adams seems to have this perspective that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ means you resolve the problem,” said Craig Hughes, a social worker for the legal services group Mobilization for Justice. “This announcement amounts to using bureaucratic meanness to squeeze people off to some imaginary place that officials seem to think exists. There is no such imaginary place, other than city streets.”
The Legal Aid Society is still seeking clarity on the new policy, according to Josh Goldfein, a staff attorney at the Homeless Rights Project there. Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, he said how the city notifies asylum seekers of their rights at the 60-day juncture will be key.
“If the person says they don’t have another place to go, the city still has a legal obligation to provide them with some place,” Goldfein said. “But we understand that they want to work with those people to encourage them to find another place to go and to identify the resources that person might have to make that happen.”
“What we need to make sure is that they don’t convey to people, ‘And we’re not going to take care of you anymore.’ Because that would not be lawful,” he continued.
In Fiscal Year 2022, the last full reporting year, single adults spent more than 16 months in Department of Homeless Services shelters on average—far longer than the 60 days established Wednesday.
However, Goldfein said single adults appear to be moving more quickly than families through the emergency shelters established for asylum seekers.
“The single adults are moving a lot more quickly,” he said. “So I think what we’ll find is that a lot of the single adults will have already moved on within the 60 days. If they’re still there, then they may be able to move on to a better place now, because they’ve been in a large congregate setting for so long.”
Wednesday also marked the first state court appearance since Mayor Adams sought to amend the 1981 consent decree in Callahan v. Carey, which established a right to shelter for single men in New York City.
In May, the Adams administration sent a letter to the court, asking for permission to pause its shelter obligations for single adults in instances where it lacks the necessary resources.
Asked about the case on Wednesday, Adams said that the courts will act and that in the meantime he will continue to follow his “north star,” of being humane. In recent weeks, the city has struggled to place asylum seekers; some have been housed at emergency sites that lacked showers, and one family told City Limits they were assigned a hotel room without beds.
“We have run out of ideas and I just really need people to understand—every day, this team is figuring out, where do we put the next body?” he continued. “Our goal is no child. No family is sleeping on the streets. That’s our goal. And we get closer and closer to being unable to fulfill even that goal.”
Following a brief closed-door court conference in lower Manhattan Wednesday afternoon, Judge Erika M. Edwards said that City and State attorneys would continue to negotiate with lawyers for the Callahan plaintiffs, including Coalition for the Homeless, with a tentative follow-up court date on August 16.
“I am definitely convinced parties are working extremely hard to resolve these issues without my involvement,” Judge Edwards said. It is in everyone’s best interest to negotiate outside of court “even if nobody gets exactly what they want,” she continued.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the city’s Law Department said that New York City is hoping for “appropriate relief” as it is facing an “unprecedented crisis” with more than 90,000 asylum seekers arriving since last spring—“a situation that could have in no way been contemplated in the 40 years since this consent decree was issued.”*
Standing outside of the courthouse on Centre Street following the hearing, Goldfein of Legal Aid, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said that his team will continue to work with the city, and that the federal government must also step up, in part by loosening work authorization requirements for asylum seekers.
Goldfein was joined by Steve Banks of the law firm Paul Weiss, who served as social services commissioner under former Mayor Bill de Blasio and is now assisting on the case, having fought to expand the right to shelter in a prior role at Legal Aid.
“The bottom line here is that the right to shelter in New York has protected thousands of people and saved lives, and it’s in nobody’s interest to undo that basic protection and have more people end up on the streets,” Banks said.