New York City to roll back ‘right to shelter’ law

(The Center Square) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams says the city’s “right-to-shelter” policy will be “significantly” rolled back under an agreement between his administration and homeless advocates.

The deal between the Adams administration, the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless, announced on Friday, sets minimum requirements for adult migrants seeking shelter under the decades-old law requiring the city to provide shelter to the homeless.

Under the terms of the agreement, adult migrants would be limited to stays in emergency housing for no more than 30 days. Families with young children would not be affected, and some adults — including migrants between the ages of 18 and 23 — would still be allowed to stay up to 60 days under certain conditions. After that, they would be subject to eviction.

In exchange, the agreement preserves a 1981 consent decree upholding the right to shelter law and prevents the government from automatically denying shelter to individuals and families if they lack housing, regardless of their immigration status.

Adams said the agreement acknowledges that the right to shelter law was “never intended to apply to a population larger than most U.S. cities descending on the five boroughs in less than two years” and gives the city more “flexibility during times of crisis” like the ongoing surge of migration.

“Like impacted cities across the country, we cannot bear the brunt of this crisis alone and continue to seek significant support from our federal partners, including expedited work authorizations, more funding, and a national resettlement strategy,” the Democrat said in a statement.

Adams said the city’s shelter system has more than 120,000 people under care in the shelter system, more than half of them migrants. He said the city has been pushed to the brink financially because of the influx of asylum seekers. New York City spent $1.45 billion in fiscal year 2023 on migrant costs and expects to spend $10 billion on migrants over the next two fiscal years, according to the Adams administration.

Homeless advocates praised the agreement, saying it will ensure the migrants aren’t homeless and New Yorkers won’t be forced to sleep on the streets.

“This settlement safeguards the right to shelter in the consent decree, ensuring single adults’ – both long-time New Yorkers and new arrivals – access to shelter, basic necessities and case management to transition from shelter to housing in the community,” Adriene Holder, a chief attorney at The Legal Aid Society, said in a statement.

“It also requires the city to immediately eliminate the use of waiting rooms as shelters where new arrivals have been sleeping on chairs and floors while they wait for shelter placement,” she said.

Last year, Adams set a 60-day limit on the length of stay in city-run homeless shelters but has also been seeking to relocate migrants to other regions of the state. He later reduced that to 30 days for adults, which has been met with pushback and legal challenges from local officials.

Republicans have long said New York City’s “sanctuary” policies are encouraging asylum seekers to resettle in the city amid the surge of immigration.

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