City Hall, NY – In an official statement submitted to the Council’s Committee on General Welfare hearing on long-standing New York City shelter intake issues and the recent increase in people seeking asylum, Speaker Adrienne Adams called for accountability, transparency and answers from Mayor Eric Adams’ administration in the wake of reports of violations of right-to-shelter law and people seeking asylum experiencing inhumane conditions at New York City shelter intake facilities.
Speaker Adrienne Adams released the following statement:
“It is clear that the City’s shelter system has been under increased stress due to a range of factors, including the economic impact of the pandemic, the end of the eviction moratorium, and unresolved bureaucratic issues within the relevant city agencies. We remain a sanctuary city and people seeking asylum are welcome here. While there may be a rise in those seeking asylum in New York City, this does not mean they are to blame for issues that have historically plagued our system. We need a clearer picture of the scope of the problems affecting the shelter system and the ways that the Administration will mitigate them, including adequate support for those seeking asylum. This hearing presents an opportunity to address how we as a city tackle these issues moving forward.”
Below is the Speaker’s full statement to the committee:
Greetings. I am Adrienne Adams, Speaker of the New York City Council. Thank you to all of you who have joined us and thank you to the Deputy Speaker and Chair of the General Welfare Committee Diana Ayala, for convening this important hearing on long-standing NYC shelter intake issues and the recent increase in people seeking asylum.
Over the past few weeks, we have heard heartbreaking stories of vulnerable people seeking asylum arriving at the City’s shelter intake offices, only to be delayed in receiving support. The Administration has admitted that there were at least four families with children, who were forced to sleep on the floor of the intake office before they were provided with shelter placement. This not only violates the City’s right to shelter laws, but does immeasurable harm to these families. It is degrading and inhumane and not what this City stands for.
Although the Administration recognized that it was in violation of the law, there have been troubling messages that have clouded the issue. For instance, local reporters and advocates stated that there were additional families that were forced to sleep on the floor and that the delay in placement, for some of them, was days, not hours. Also concerning is the fact that the last time the City was in violation of the right to shelter laws, which was in 2014, the Administration alerted advocates. They did not do that this time and only held a press conference once reporters broke the story.
It is clear that the City’s shelter system has been under increased stress due to a range of factors, including the economic impact of the pandemic and the end of the eviction moratorium. There are long-standing capacity issues of very low vacancy rates in shelters, DHS and HRA are short staffed, which inevitably causes inefficiencies in the shelter intake process, and a shortage of permanent housing options in part caused by bureaucratic inefficiencies and discrimination related to the administration of CityFHEPS rental assistance vouchers.
There is a lack of clarity on how this Administration is quantifying how many people seeking asylum are arriving in New York City. We remain a sanctuary city and those seeking asylum are welcome here. While there may be a rise in people seeking asylum in New York City, this does not mean they are to blame for issues that have historically plagued our shelter system. I hope that this hearing will paint a clearer picture of the scope of the problems affecting the shelter system and the ways that the Administration will mitigate them.
Our right to shelter laws mean that we will endeavor to provide shelter to those that request it and I am eager to work with this Administration to ensure that we can do this in the most efficient and humane way possible. We must not engage in scapegoating that seeks to blame some families for the pressures that already exist in our systems. The economic impact of COVID-19, the ending of the eviction moratorium and voucher discrimination in the rental market all increase demand on the City’s shelter system, and increased efforts are needed. I am looking forward to hearing the testimony, from both advocates and the Administration, on how we tackle these issues moving forward.
Thank you, Chair Ayala, and members of the Council’s Committee on General Welfare.