Mayor Eric Adams is pursuing legal actions that could suspend New York City’s long-standing right-to-shelter regulations due to a surge in migrants straining the city’s shelter system.
The city submitted a court petition on Thursday, October 5th, seeking permission to pause the shelter mandate during states of emergency, mainly when there’s a swift surge in single adults seeking shelter.
The city’s legal team described the current shelter obligations as “outmoded and cumbersome,” suggesting it restricts the flexibility policymakers require.
The proposed suspension would impact not just new migrants but all homeless single adults.
After extended discussions with the state and the Legal Aid Society, an organization that defends homeless New Yorkers, this recent court filing signifies a shift in the ongoing legal dispute.
Established in 1981, the Callahan consent decree mandates the city to extend shelter services to any single man in need. Subsequent lawsuits extended this right to single women and, later, families.
Currently, the city aims to be exempt from offering shelter to single adults under two scenarios: during emergencies and when shelter demand exceeds non-emergency times by at least 50%.
However, the exemption the Adams administration is hoping to achieve will also include native New York residents such as veterans and other residents, impacting them as well. New Yorkers may be denied shelter space due to the proposed changes.
Mayor Adams stated, “With more than 122,700 asylum seekers having come through our intake system since the spring of 2022, and projected costs of over $12 billion for three years, it is abundantly clear that the status quo cannot continue.”
Recently, his administration reduced the shelter stay duration for adult migrants to 30 days, a decline from the previous 60 days.
Redmond Haskins, a spokesperson for Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless, expressed concerns over the implications of the proposed changes, saying, “The city’s shameful revised application would go far beyond limiting its obligation to provide some form of emergency shelter to asylum seekers and other new arrivals.”
He added, “If successful, the city would have the ability to declare an emergency, and effectively end the Right to Shelter for thousands of New Yorkers – including working poor individuals who rely on the shelter system and, alarmingly, individuals who rely on disability benefits.”