The city of New York is currently facing a challenge to a one-of-a-kind legal agreement that mandates the provision of emergency housing to any individual who requests it. This comes at a time when the city’s shelter system is being overburdened by a significant influx of international migrants who have arrived within the past year.
Late on Tuesday, the city submitted a request to the court, seeking permission to suspend the requirement of sheltering single adults when there is a sudden surge in their population during a state of emergency.
As Mayor Eric Adams prepares to travel through Latin America for four days starting Wednesday, a recent filing has revealed that the city’s shelter system is at capacity, and its resources are overwhelmed. During his trip to Mexico, he plans to discourage people from migrating to New York by letting them know about the current situation. This news comes as a reminder of the urgent need to address the city’s homelessness crisis and to find ways to support those in need.
For months now, the city has been taking steps to suspend what is known as the “right to shelter” due to the influx of migrants. This latest move, represented by the recent filing, is just another attempt in a long-standing legal battle.
The shelter requirement in New York City, which has been in effect for more than forty years, was established through a legal agreement in 1981. This agreement mandated that the city must provide temporary housing for every individual experiencing homelessness, a unique provision not found in any other major American city.
Recently, Mayor Adams, a Democrat, expressed concerns about the sustainability of this requirement. He emphasized that with over 122,700 asylum seekers entering the city’s intake system since spring 2022 and projected costs exceeding $12 billion over three years, the current situation is untenable. Mayor Adams stressed that New York City cannot continue to shoulder this responsibility alone.
Initially, Mayor Adams had praised the shelter requirement as a testament to the city’s compassion toward asylum seekers. However, as the crisis persisted, his stance evolved. The city has spent over a billion dollars on renting hotel spaces, establishing large emergency shelters, and providing essential services for migrants who arrive without housing or employment.
Mayor Adams recently stated that this issue threatens to have a detrimental impact on New York City. However, there are differing opinions on this matter. Josh Goldfein, a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society, believes that if the city’s request to reconsider the shelter requirement is successful, it could lead to dire consequences. Goldfein questions the alternative, expressing concerns about turning people away from the shelter system, resulting in individuals residing in the streets, subways, and parks—a situation not witnessed in decades and one that New Yorkers and city officials likely wish to avoid.
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