The mayor of New York requested a judge’s permission to suspend the city’s long-standing “right to shelter” requirement on Tuesday, arguing that the city is no longer able to house every homeless person due to the influx of tens of thousands of foreign migrants.
After a judge ordered the city to offer temporary housing for any person who requests it in 1981, New York has had the right to shelter for more than 40 years. There is no such rule in other major American cities.
However, the city has struggled to find space for everyone in need of a temporary roof and bed due to the entrance of 70,000 asylum seekers since last spring, many of whom entered the country illegally from Mexico.
“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,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.
“Being dishonest about this will only result in our system collapsing, and we need our government partners to know the truth and do their share,” said the mayor, a Democrat.
Adams claimed he was only looking for “clarity from the court,” not to permanently abolish the right to refuge.
Some housing advocates opposed the plan, claiming it may lead to more people living outside.
Adams wants “to end the right to shelter that has prevented New York City from following in the footsteps of places like L.A. and San Francisco where thousands of people are in appalling conditions out on the street,” according to Joe Loonam, housing campaign coordinator for the advocacy group VOCAL-NY.
Shelter capacity in New York has reached historic heights. According to the city, it currently houses 93,000 people. It has recently spent a lot of money renting out entire hotels to accommodate the inflow of refugees. Additionally, it has furnished disused police academy buildings, cruise ship terminals, and schools with cots and tents for temporary housing.
The city’s attorneys requested for a revision in the legislation that would let officials to revoke the right to shelter when the Department of Homeless Services has the means to safely accommodate everyone in a letter to the deputy chief administrative judge for New York City Courts.
Adams has criticized President Joe Biden’s administration for failing to provide cash to care for migrants and has asked the state and federal governments for financial assistance.
Adams asserted that the $30 million offer from the White House is insufficient during an appearance on “Face the Nation” on CBS News on Sunday.
“We’ve spent over a billion dollars,” the mayor said. “We’re projected to spend close to $4.3 billion, if not more. This estimate was based on a number of migrants coming to the city, and those numbers have clearly increased.”
The city started paying for some asylum seekers to stay at hotels in counties north of the city in recent weeks, but that move sparked resentment and claims that the city was shifting its issues onto other areas.
Adams hailed the “right to shelter” rule as a symbol of his city’s compassion for asylum seekers during the early stages of the crisis. In an effort to draw attention to the border problem, the governors of border states run by Republicans, such as Texas and Arizona, bused many of the early migrants to New York. Washington, D.C., another city with a Democratic mayor, was also a target for the governors.
In order to address the shelter shortage, the city needs to expand its rental assistance programs, said Catherine Trapani, executive director of Homeless Services United, a nonprofit organization that promotes affordable housing.
“There are alternatives,” she said. “The mayor does not need to take this drastic step to limit what should be a fundamental right.”
The Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society issued a joint statement in which they both vowed to “vigorously oppose” the mayor’s proposal.
“New Yorkers do not want to see anyone, including asylum seekers, relegated to the streets,” the statement read.