How To Access Emergency Shelter in NYC
New York City can be a daunting place, especially if you have nowhere to live. Documented put together a guide for exercising your right to shelter, which applies even if you didn’t just get here.
This article was originally published by Documented, a nonprofit news organization covering immigration. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters
New York City has tens of thousands of shelter beds available but accessing them can be challenging for newly arrived immigrants. Nearly 4,000 migrants arrived in NYC during summer 2022 on chartered buses publicly funded by the state of Texas.
Many nonprofit and city agencies have been on hand at the Port Authority Bus Terminal to direct the wave of new arrivals to shelter and services, but conversations with immigrants via our WhatsApp service in Spanish show us that these asylum seekers need more help as they adjust to life in NYC.
Shelter Intake Process
To enter the NYC shelter system, people have to first show up to a shelter intake location. After a person applies for shelter, they may stay at that center or be sent to another location where there is a bed available. All New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) centers have interpretation services available for people who don’t speak English.
Can you apply from another city? No, The system requires people to be present in the intake location to request admission.
Anyone can dial 311 to access the NYC emergency shelter hotline and learn about the shelter intake process.
Single men must apply for shelter in-person at the 30th Street Intake Center at 400-430 East 30th Street in Manhattan. The entrance is at 30th Street and 1st Avenue. The shelter is open 24 hours a day.
Single women must apply for shelter at either of these locations: the HELP Women’s Shelter at 116 Williams Avenue between Liberty Avenue and Glenmore Avenue in Brooklyn; or the Franklin Shelter at 1122 Franklin Avenue near 166th Street. Both of these shelters are open 24 hours a day.
Here is more information about applying for temporary housing assistance as a single adult.
Families with children or single pregnant women must apply for shelter in-person at the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Office of DHS. The PATH office is located at 151 East 151st Street at the corner of Melrose Avenue in The Bronx. It is open 24/7 but only processes shelter applications between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The main phone number is 917-521-3900.
What Documentation to Bring to a NYC Shelter Intake Center
Single men and women are recommended to bring a recent paystub, if applicable, and any form of ID with a photo and date of birth, such as a passport, visa or driver’s license. Families with children have stricter requirements. All members of the household need to have proper identification, such as a photo ID, passport or visa, birth certificate or identity card in the Public Assistance system.
People with disabilities can request a shelter facility that best suits their needs, and DHS encourages them to bring medical documentation to the intake process.
To access a NYC shelter bed, people have to visit one of the above intake centers. Drop-in centers offer places for people to take a shower, clean their clothes, and get case management help without applying through an intake center. They are open 24/7, but drop-in centers do not have shelter beds for overnight stays.
More information about drop-in centers.
The Living Room | 800 Barretto Street at Lafayette Avenue in The Bronx
The Haven | 2640 Third Ave (between East 141 Street and East 142 Street) in The Bronx
Gathering Place | 2402 Atlantic Avenue (between Sackman Street and Jardine Place) in Brooklyn
Mainchance | 120 East 32nd Street (between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue) in Manhattan
Breaking Ground | 100-32 Atlantic Avenue (at 102nd Street) in Queens
Project Hospitality | 150 Richmond Terrace (between Wall Street and Schuyler Street) in Staten Island
Know Your Rights
The Callahan Consent Decree, passed in 1981, established a right to shelter for homeless individuals in New York City. Anyone who does not have a place to stay can walk into an intake center and have a right to be placed in shelter the same night.
“You must receive a bed frame, a mattress, a locker and lock, your bed must be 3 feet apart from the other beds in the shelter, you must have access to linens, basic toiletries, and laundry services among other things,” the Coalition for the Homeless shares in its outline about what is legally guaranteed in the Callahan Consent Decree. Learn more about homeless people’s rights here.
If you are denied a shelter bed, the Coalition for the Homeless recommends that you call their Crisis Intervention Emergency hotline at 1-888-358-2384.
People can be evicted from emergency shelters if they break DHS rules. This is what DHS classifies as “client responsibility” that is required to remain in shelter:
- Cooperate in carrying out, developing and completing their Independent Living Plan, which includes the steps toward obtaining permanent housing
- Applying for Public Assistance and completing all requirements necessary for establishing and maintaining eligibility for PA benefits
- If able to work, actively seeking employment and accepting a suitable job offer when it is offered
- Working closely with their caseworker or housing specialist to locate and view available apartments
- Actively seeking permanent housing by viewing available apartments several times per week
- Accepting a suitable apartment when it is offered
- Following shelter guidelines that prohibit behavior that places other clients and staff at risk
Other Resources for Homeless Immigrants
Many nonprofits have a relationship with the city and provide services, in addition to shelter, to people who are experiencing homelessness. You still have to visit an intake center to be connected with an overnight bed, but many of these locations offer other services that can be helpful for immigrants and refugees.
- New York State New Americans Hotline: 212-419-3737 & 1-800-566-7636
- RDJ Refugee Shelter
“The RDJ Refugee Shelter is currently the only shelter in NYC specifically for asylum seekers and refugees experiencing homelessness. We provide the holistic care, support, advocacy, and resources needed to thrive in their new home.”
Located inside Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church, 521 West 126 Street in Manhattan
Fill out this form to request additional services
“HIAS New York provides direct services to refugees, asylees, Special Immigrant Visa holders and other humanitarian migrants, with the goals of successful integration into the community and facilitating self-sufficiency.”
New York office: 212-967-4100
Information hotline: 800-HIAS-714
“[Asylum seekers] coming to our offices and parishes are receiving emergency assistance, food, basic clothing items, toiletries, as well as critical information on shelter and medical resources. Many have appointments with immigration officials in the upcoming months and our legal services staff is beginning to review their situations.”
The following locations have services tailored to the needs of immigrants and refugees. The Catholic Charities hotline is 888-744-7900.
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York
1011 1st Avenue, Fl. 6 New York, NY
Catholic Guardian Services for Unaccompanied Minors
1011 First Avenue (between 55th and 56th Street) in Manhattan
377 East 145th Street (between Willis Avenue and 3rd Avenue) in The Bronx
2759 Webster Ave (between East 197th and East 198th streets) in The Bronx
Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice
1384 Stratford Avenue (between East 174th and East 172nd streets) in The Bronx