New York City Asks for Relief From Its Right-to-Shelter Mandate
Mayor Eric Adams asked a judge for permission on Tuesday to relieve New York City of its unique and longstanding obligation to provide shelter for anyone who asks, asserting that the overwhelming influx of asylum seekers has overwhelmed its ability to accommodate all those in need.
“Given that we’re unable to provide care for an unlimited number of people and are already overextended, it is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single- “handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Mr. Adams said in a statement. “Being dishonest about this will only result in our system collapsing, and we need our government partners to know the truth and do their share.”
In a letter to Deborah Kaplan, the deputy chief administrative judge for New York City Courts, the city’s lawyers asked for changes to the 1981 consent decree that set New York’s requirement to provide shelter for anyone who applies for it.
The city asked that the wording be changed to allow it to deny shelter to homeless adults and adult families if it “lacks the resources and capacity to establish and maintain sufficient shelter sites, staffing, and security to provide safe and appropriate shelter.”
The city would still provide shelter to families with children.
Mr. Adams said that he was not seeking to permanently end the right to shelter. But he said that the 1981 consent decree, issued in Callahan v. Carey case, could not have anticipated “a mass influx of individuals entering our system — more than doubling our census count in slightly over a year.”
The letter to Judge Kaplan underscored that theme, saying that the “unprecedented demands on the city’s shelter resources confront the city defendant with challenges never contemplated, foreseeable or indeed, even remotely imagined.”
City officials say more than 70,000 migrants have arrived since the spring and more than 40,000 are in the city’s care. There are more than 81,000 people in the city’s main shelter system.
This is the second time the Adams administration has sought relief from the right-to-shelter mandate. Earlier this month, the mayor issued an executive order that suspended rules requiring families to be placed in private rooms with bathrooms and kitchens, not in group settings, and that set a nightly deadline for newly arriving families to be placed in shelters.
Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless issued a joint statement strongly opposing the city’s move. “For more than 40 years, Callahan has served as a lifeline for countless New Yorkers seeking shelter and critical services,” the groups said.
“The administration’s request to suspend the long-established state constitutional right that protects our clients from the elements is not who we are as a city,” the statement continued. “New Yorkers do not want to see anyone, including asylum seekers, relegated to the streets. We will vigorously oppose any motion from this administration that seeks to undo these fundamental protections that have long defined our city.”