Immigrant Advocates Support Shelter Mandate, Push Adams For Permanent Housing Solutions

March 15, 2024

Following months of court proceedings, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless announced a settlement with New York City.

Effectively ending the government’s legal challenge against New York’s Right to Shelter consent decree, established under Callahan v. Carey in 1981. 

The terms of the latest settlement are temporary and only apply to newly arrived single asylum-seeking adults, effective solely during the current humanitarian crisis. Families with children are not affected. 

This agreement preserves New York’s 1981 Right to Shelter mandate, ensuring that the government cannot automatically deny shelter to anyone, whether they are long-time New York residents or newly arrived asylum seekers.

Murad Awawdeh, President and CEO, New York Immigration Coalition, “New York’s Right to Shelter is the cornerstone of our city’s commitment to the care and wellbeing of its people and has long provided essential support and reassurance to both long-time New York residents and those who are newly arrived. We commend the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless for their tireless efforts defending our City’s mandate to ensure a safe place to sleep for all people in their time of need. The settlement includes some important provisions, including ending the use of waiting rooms as temporary shelters, which forced too many new arrivals to sleep on floors or in chairs while they waited for shelter placements—assurances our communities did not have until today. 

“Yet, challenges persist. By specifically identifying single asylum seeking adults to be removed from shelters after 30 or 60 days without any true path to affordable housing, the Adams Administration creates a discriminatory practice that is not only immoral and antithetical to the intent of the Right to Shelter, but also short-sighted. A continuation of the 30 and 60-day limits will only exacerbate the City’s long-standing housing crisis and will unnecessarily force new residents onto the street. We cannot stress enough that Mayor Adams’ unyielding commitment to demonizing and victimizing our newest arrivals will make him the sole architect of a manufactured crisis that will impact the health, safety, and security of all New Yorkers.

“Instead of focusing on imposing additional restrictions on asylum-seeking adults, Mayor Adams must invest in real solutions that meet the needs of all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, such as expanding access to CityFHEPS vouchers, which would allow all those stuck in our shelter system a viable path to permanent housing, stability, and self-sufficiency. We have waited too long for the Mayor to prioritize humane solutions that empower all New Yorkers, rather than policies that only lead to further hardship and suffering—we call on him to act now!”

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The terms of the settlement are enforceable in court. The underlying Right to Shelter consent decree has not been modified. In addition to ensuring new arrivals’ access to shelter, the settlement guarantees that: 

  • all single adult new arrivals receive an initial 30-day shelter placement (60 days for single adults under the age of 23) if they do not have another place to stay;
  • all single adult new arrivals will have their basic needs met as they move toward independence and resettlement;
  • the City will eliminate the backlog of new arrivals who are reapplying for placement;
  • the City will counsel new arrivals in their preferred language on what assistance is available to help them resettle;
  • the City will extend shelter stays beyond 30 or 60 days for single adult new arrivals for a period of time on an individualized, case-by-case basis as long as they are making diligent efforts to locate a place to stay outside of the shelter system;
  • the City will offer extended placement beyond 30 or 60 days for any single adult new arrival with a disability, in accordance with federal, state and local laws;
  • at New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters, Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRCs), hotels throughout New York State, and faith-based or community-based accommodations the following will be provided to all single adult new arrivals:
    • an appropriate number of staff based on an assessment of the needs of each site; and
    • access to bathrooms, showers, and meals (or a meal allowance).

The settlement also requires the elimination of the use of “waiting rooms” as shelter. Recently,  many new arrivals have waited for days or weeks on chairs and floors when they reapplied for shelter at the “Reticketing Center” after their initial 30-day shelter placements.

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is an umbrella policy & advocacy organization that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York. The NYIC serves one of the largest and most diverse newcomer populations in the United States. The multi-racial and multi-sector NYIC membership base includes grassroots and nonprofit community organizations, religious and academic institutions, labor unions, as well as legal and socioeconomic justice organizations.

The NYIC not only establishes a forum for immigrant groups to voice their concerns, but also provides a platform for collective action to drive positive social change. Since its founding in 1987, the NYIC has evolved into a powerful voice of advocacy by spearheading innovative policies, promoting and protecting the rights of immigrant communities, improving newcomer access to services, developing leadership and capacity, expanding civic participation, and mobilizing member groups to respond to the fluctuating needs of immigrant communities.

Photo credit: HWM.

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