Migrants in New York seek beds as city stops offering shelter to some

By | October 28, 2023

On Thursday, Vinicius Funes, a 26-year-old Honduran migrant, went looking for a bed.

He had spent two nights waiting in a chair at New York City’s official migrant arrivals center, at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

He was then given a document directing him to what he thought was a homeless shelter.

But it turned out to be a “ticketing” office, where the city buys migrants a one-way ticket out of the city.

With nowhere to go, Mr. Funes returned to the Roosevelt, where he received a text message from a friend about a spot at a shelter in the Bronx.

There were no beds there either, just a large waiting room.

Mr. Funes spent the night on the ground.

He had plenty of company: At least 50 men had done the same, with only blue blankets distributed by the city to rest on, said Mr. Funes and another migrant who gave his name only as Daniel A. and who provided video of the conditions. there.

New York City is legally required to provide a bed to every homeless person who requests one, under a decades-old court settlement. But after 18 months of a migration crisis that shows no signs of easing, it has turned away from its obligations, at least for some people.

The city, which currently provides emergency shelter to more than 65,000 migrants, no longer guarantees beds to single adults who have reached the 30- or 60-day limit for staying at a migrant shelter.

“We have established holding areas for those who have left our shelter system and are now seeking to return,” Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams, said Friday.

In the case of Mr. Funes and Daniel A., that space was a former health clinic located on Third Avenue in the Bronx.

Dozens of migrants have also been sleeping on the floor for five days in another city-designated holding area, at a church in Astoria, Queens, said Kathryn Kliff, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, which is fighting a city’s attempt to suspend the so-called right to housing.

In the case of Mr. Funes, who has never been to an urban shelter, New York also appears to be failing first-time applicants like him.

“They want you to be tired, so you give up, and they achieve that,” he said.

Mr Adams made no apologies for the migrant housing situation during a press conference on Tuesday.

“I don’t know how to make it clearer,” he said. “When you have no more room, that means you have no more room.”

He added that it was inevitable that some migrants would end up on the outside.

“The question is not if people will sleep on the streets, but rather when,” the mayor said.

The lack of space was made worse by the recent intervention of the firefighters closing five shelters, housing hundreds of migrants, due to fire code violations.

The city said its efforts to get migrants to leave shelters, using a combination of placement assistance and pressure tactics, were paying off: about 5,000 migrants who exceeded the shelter time limit , fewer than 1,000 reapplied to stay in shelters. The others left.

The influx of new arrivals which had accelerated in recent weeks is also easing. About 2,500 migrants were processed at the arrival center last week, compared to more than 3,500 per week last month.

But the number of migrants in shelters has continued to climb every month since the start of the crisis. Housing them costs the city more than $10 million a day.

Recently, Mr. Adams’ administration discussed providing sleeping bags and tents to migrants and allowing them to camp in designated areas, according to a person familiar with the city’s deliberations.

Mr. Adams appeared to allude to this on Tuesday, saying the city was looking for “outdoor spaces” where it could “try to create a controlled environment to the best of our abilities.” He added that the city would ensure there were toilets and showers.

The goal, Adams said, was to “localize” the settlements as much as possible, to avoid “what’s happening in other cities, where you see tent cities popping up all over the place.”

The opening of the ticketing center and waiting areas was reported by the news site The City. Discussions on tent distribution took place reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Kliff said that putting people in tents, especially as winter approaches, “is a violation of everything we could accept” and would cause “physical harm and trauma to people who have already suffered from ‘immense trauma’ during their trek to the region. The United States on the arduous migration route through Latin America.

The city and Legal Aid, along with New York State, are now mediating the housing rights case. Across the city, Ms. Kliff said, migrants receive conflicting instructions as they are moved from one place to another.

“There is massive confusion right now,” she said.

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