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Asylum-seekers would face no time limits on shelter stays under NYC Council bill

The Gothamist, Arya Sundaram, Oct 5, 2023 

Asylum-seekers and others staying in New York City’s homeless shelters would face no time limits on their stays under a City Council bill being introduced on Thursday.

The proposal from Councilmember Shahana Hanif, who chairs the Council’s immigration committee, takes aim at Mayor Eric Adams’ recent imposition of shelter stay limits for single adult migrants. Adams imposed a 60-day time limit in July and last month reduced it to 30 days, saying the moves were necessary to free up beds in the city’s overwhelmed shelter system.

Hanif called the limits “counterproductive,” “cruel,” “unjust” and a “dangerous precedent.” “These notices are creating further chaos and confusion for a group of people who are here to start new, safe lives, dignified lives,” she added.

The bill comes as the Adams administration moves ahead with legal efforts to temporarily suspend the city’s decades-old right-to-shelter protections for single adults – safety net obligations set forth in a 1981 consent decree. Advocates for migrants and homeless people have widely panned Adams’ legal gambit, warning it would have a “ripple effect” undermining the right to shelter.

The administration says that when those protections were established, they were not intended to serve a large international influx of people like the one New York City is currently experiencing.

City officials need flexibility as they contend with the ongoing migrant influx, given that more than 120,000 people have arrived since spring 2022 and some 63,000 are staying in local shelters, according to Adams.

The mayor is currently on a four-day tour of Latin America aimed partly at discouraging migrants from setting their sights on New York.

Administration officials say the new stay limits will make more shelter beds available in time for an expected surge in arrivals from the U.S. southern border. Adams has said that the cost of sheltering migrants in the more than 200 emergency sites established by the city is projected to exceed $12 billion through June 2025, with city taxpayers shouldering most of the expenses.

Hanif did not provide an estimate for the costs associated with her proposed measure. In a statement, City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamalek said the proposal “would be disconnected from the reality our city is dealing with every single day.” She added that the status quo is unsustainable without more state and federal aid.

Read More: The Gothamist