More than 4,500 adult migrants living in city shelters are fast approaching a deadline when they will be ejected from where they currently live, thanks to a dramatic policy shift announced in July that’s sparking alarm and concern among some people and optimism in others.
The notices, highlighting cutoff dates beginning in late September, instruct shelter residents to go to the Roosevelt Hotel, the city’s main intake for newly arriving asylum- seekers, to “apply for another housing assistance option, which could include a faith or community based organization or placement in a hotel in upstate New York.”
Migrants at the Jefferson Street shelter who spoke with THE CITY shared notices they had received, on NYC letterhead with no agency specified, and said they don’t know what to do next.
“It will be chaos,” said Yohandry Marquez, speaking in Spanish outside the shelter on a recent afternoon. The 25-year-old migrant from Venezuela said he suffers from scoliosis, which makes it hard for him to work more than a few hours a day and difficult for him to save enough to rent a place of his own.
“It’s going to get ugly,” Marquez predicted.
Spokespeople for Mayor Eric Adams and city agencies involved in the efforts to house migrants did not respond to requests for comment.
Copies of the warning letter shared with THE CITY promise that “a case worker will be reaching out to you in the coming days to explore your options for the future, including connecting with family, friends and other networks. The City is able to facilitate your travel to another destination.”
Dr. Ted Long, who is playing a key role coordinating migrant response from his post as a senior vice president at NYC Health + Hospitals, has touted the additional attention migrants get once they’ve received eviction notices.
“We ask, ‘how can we help you? And what people are asking us is they want certain tools in order to be able to work,” Long said at a recent press briefing. “Our focus is on giving people what they want, and those are the specifics of what they’re telling us they need.”
But more than a dozen migrants at two city-run shelters who received eviction notices said that they were offered bus or plane tickets to other cities, and were given little guidance beyond that.
“Nada,” said 44-year-old Wilmer Barrios, who said he was recently hospitalized and was told he needs a gallbladder operation, but is delaying it while his housing is up in the air.
“I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do,” Barrios said in Spanish. “I just keep thinking about winter. I don’t know if they’re going to wait until people end up in the street.”
Mayor Eric Adams announced the new 60-day limit on shelter stays for migrants in mid-July, as the number of people in shelters soared to more than 104,000 people, including 54,000 asylum-seekers.
In the month and a half since, the shelter population has continued to climb, with more than 110,000 people in shelters, including nearly 60,000 migrants, as of Aug. 20.
On Day 61
The 60-day warnings are among a host of changes the city has implemented as the shelter population has more than doubled over the past year due to the influx of asylum-seekers from countries all over the world, including Venezuela, Ecuador, Mauritania and Sudan.
Attorneys for Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul, and advocates for homeless New Yorkers, are in ongoing discussions before a Manhattan Supreme Court judge, debating the city’s shelter obligations under a decades-old court decree.
Tensions have flared between Democratic leaders at the city, state and federal levels over how each arm of government has handled the new arrivals, as public sentiment has shifted toward frustration at the situation.
The Roosevelt Hotel arrival center was overwhelmed in recent weeks, with migrants spending multiple nights outside for a week straight during a heat wave in late July.
The Adams administration has yet to detail how the city will handle the combined influx of migrants kicked out of shelters returning to the Roosevelt Hotel, as well as new arrivals, hundreds of whom are still showing up in New York daily, at the same time.
“The question that we haven’t reached is what happens on day 61,” said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney with The Legal Aid Society who advocates on behalf of homeless New Yorkers. City officials have told him the first asylum-seekers will be evicted from their current shelter placements on Sept. 23.
“What they won’t say is whether they will promise to offer anything at all,” he said.
Thankful to US
But not all migrants who spoke to THE CITY were dreading their final days in city shelters.
Some who have been able to find stable work said they were hopeful about finding a place to rent before their ultimate eviction date. Though many who spoke to THE CITY had been in the U.S. long enough to begin to apply for work authorization, none had done so, and were instead working under-the-table in construction and day labor, as food delivery workers for Uber, or in restaurants.
“I don’t want to return to another shelter,” said Overt Palomino, 28, from Venezuela, who’s been bouncing around various shelters and hotels since his arrival in New York City in October. “Not everyone is as lucky as me. I’m saving money to rent something, because I can,” Palomino said in Spanish.
He added: “I’m thankful to the United States for all the help I’ve gotten.”
Yoxander Duarte, 27, another Venezuelan asylum-seeker, said he was already calling around to people he knew about renting a room and pinching pennies to be able to rent a place.
He said his plan is to “keep working, saving cash so when it’s my time to leave, wherever I can find a place, I’ll rent,” Duarte said in Spanish, snapping his fingers.
Migrants, like residents in the traditional shelter system, have moved multiple times in their months here, often with little to no warning before being told they had to move. The adults currently subject to eviction from the system have been in city shelters for several months, and have already been shuffled around between Randall’s Island, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, various hotels, and other emergency shelters during their months in New York City.
“All the shuffling, historically it reduces people’s ability to move on,” Goldfein said. “In the long term it ends up costing the city money, to keep shuffling people around rather than letting them stay in a stable place [so they can] get together what they need to move on.”
New arrivals to the Bushwick shelter have also been warned their days are numbered. Mohammed Hasan, a 28-year-old student who fled war-torn Sudan, arrived in New York City in mid-August. Hasan said that on his second day in the shelter he was told he would have to leave in two months.
“There’s nothing to say,” he said in French. “We’ll see after the two months, where exactly I’ll go, I don’t know.”