New York City officials are seeking to outsource the opening of new emergency migrant shelters overseen by the Health and Hospital system to subcontractors, according to a request for proposals published in the City Record

In a notice released Monday, city officials described seeking groups capable of project management to take the reins for opening up large-scale and longer-term shelters for migrants that the city calls Humanitarian Resource and Relief Centers, or HERRCs, 13 of which are up and running across the city.

After this report was published on Wednesday morning, Adam Shrier, a spokesperson for the city’s Health and Hospital system, said that the subcontracted project managers would focus on opening new sites while H&H would continue to run day-to-day operations at sites already up and running. 

“From the start of the HERRC program, NYC Health + Hospitals staff has managed HERRC sites directly and on-site with contractors reporting to them for staffing, medical, food services, laundry, and other critical resources,” he said in an email. “This RFP is no different—it does not shift the structure of the HERRC model or operations, but rather deepens NYC Health + Hospitals’ involvement in the management of the HERRC system by adding capacity.”

Bidders have until mid-August to submit proposals. Year-long contracts to run the shelters would begin in November, at which time the subcontractors will be expected to provide “full-scale project management support,” the request for proposals reads. 

Within the detailed outline of the request posted online, the city specifies that staffers of the subcontractor “are expected to engage professionally with clients, guests.”

It adds that “Vendor staff should not engage in personal relationships with clients, guests, or staff, whether they are on or off shift.”

Rising Numbers

Through mid-June more than 12,000 asylum seekers were in shelters overseen by Health and Hospitals, according to the most recent breakdown provided by the comptroller’s office. While that figure isn’t regularly provided by the mayor’s office, it accounted for roughly a quarter of the 48,000 migrants in city shelters at that time. 

Most of the asylum seekers in city care, however, are in the “traditional” shelter system overseen by the city’s Homeless Services Department that’s now holding a record number of people.

Since the surge of migrants to New York City last fall, Health and Hospitals has opened sprawling dormitory-style shelters for adults in locations including the Candler Building, a previously empty office tower in Midtown that’s still in use as a shelter.

The Randalls Island HERRC Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Health and Hospitals also opened and then closed cavernous tents inside the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and on Randalls Island. 

Earlier this month, New York City quietly opened in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn what’s expected to become the largest shelter in history, while two more giant tented shelters were slated to open in Queens in the coming weeks, THE CITY reported

For families with young children, Health and Hospitals opened sites in struggling Midtown hotels including The Row, The Watson, The Stewart, and The Roosevelt. 

The efforts to keep migrants from sleeping on city streets are projected to cost the city $4.3 billion by next July.

Shadow System

City officials have maintained the strict regulations that applied to Department of Homeless services shelters weren’t at play in the HERRCs. Many of the facilities for adults had more than 200 cots spaced out less than three feet apart, neither of which would have been allowed in traditional shelters. 

Critics have charged the city with creating a “shadow shelter system” with more secrecy and less oversight. Unlike the Department of Homeless Services and the Office of Emergency Management, which is also providing emergency shelter for migrants, Health and Hospitals isn’t a traditional city agency and doesn’t have to report its spending and contracting to the same extent. 

City officials said more than 54,000 asylum seekers were staying in at least 188 emergency sites across the city and spread between the various systems now providing shelter as of July 16. 

Altogether, an unprecedented 105,800 people are now sleeping in shelters as advocates have implored city officials to put a renewed emphasis on moving people out of shelters into permanent housing.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information and a statement from NYC Health + Hospitals.