Adams limits shelter stays for single adult asylum-seekers to 60 days

The mayor announced the move to ensure enough space for incoming families, including asylum-seekers

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, pictured at the 55th anniversary of the Fund for the City of New York at Gracie Mansion earlier this week, announced Wednesday that single, adult asylum-seekers would be limited to 60 days in the city’s shelters July 18, 2023.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, pictured at the 55th anniversary of the Fund for the City of New York at Gracie Mansion earlier this week, announced Wednesday that single, adult asylum-seekers would be limited to 60 days in the city’s shelters July 18, 2023. Benny Polatseck/Mayoral Photography Office

With the city’s shelter system buckling under a record number of people experiencing homelessness, New York City Mayor Eric Adams plans to implement a 60 day limit on how long single adult asylum-seekers can stay in city care before they’ll need to apply for a new shelter placement. The plan, according to city officials, is the only way to make sure there continues to be space in city care for families with children as more migrants arrive. 

“Our goal is no child, no family is sleeping on the streets. That’s our goal. And we are getting closer and closer to being unable to fulfill even that,” Adams said from City Hall Wednesday afternoon, claiming that city shelter capacity has been stretched so far beyond its limit that the time has come for tough choices to be made.

The announcement drew immediate outcry from homeless advocates and some City Council members who argued that the move will leave more people homeless and living on the street. A spokesperson for the City Council said that members weren’t given any advance notice or details about the proposal, which they are currently reviewing. Aspects of the plan were first reported by Gothamist Wednesday morning.

City Council Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala said she thinks the policy is inhumane and incorrectly works off of the assumption that most people who are coming to the city have somewhere else to go. 

“We run the risk that if they harass folks enough and make them feel unwelcome they are going to end up sleeping in city parks because people need someplace to sleep,” she said. “You’re talking about migrants that are coming in, that don't have a work visa, that may not have family – to make them have to repeat the same tormented cycle every two weeks to me is wrong.”

City officials said the policy will be imposed in the coming days starting with asylum-seekers who’ve been staying in emergency relief centers for the longest period of time. Single adult asylum-seekers will be given a 60 days’ notice to find “alternative housing” along with “intensified casework services” to help them chart their next destination. Those who are unable to find another place to stay will be required to report to the asylum-seeker arrival center where they’ll need to reapply for shelter placement. While Adams said his goal isn’t to increase street homelessness, anyone who is unable to find an alternative placement will need to wait “wherever they can find a place” for room to become available. 

Sixty days is a far cry from the length of time most single adults stay in city shelters. According to the most recent Mayor’s Management Report, the average length of stay for single adults during fiscal year 2022 was 509 days. Families – who stayed in shelter an average of 534 days in the same period – would be exempt from the proposal. The city also plans to distribute physical fliers and information via social media to dispel misinformation about city capacity in an effort to discourage asylum-seekers from coming to the city.  

City officials say they’ve made every effort to serve the more than 90,000 asylum-seekers who’ve arrived in the city since last spring, having opened over 185 emergency shelters, including 13 large-scale Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers. Over 54,800 migrants remain in the city’s care – a population that’s continued to grow even as the overall rate of people crossing the border has slowed.

While Ayala said she’s sensitive to the sheer challenge of finding additional space for migrants to stay – especially with so little support from the federal government, which is culpable in the challenges that new arrivals are facing – she doesn't understand how the 60 day limit would resolve anything. 

“This will trigger an emergency hearing to try to figure out where the hell this administration is heading because it's not fair,” she said.

Wednesday's announcement comes as city attorneys prepared to face lawyers from the Legal Aid Society as well as former Department of Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks in a case conference this afternoon over Adams’ recent attempt to suspend aspects of the city’s right to shelter law. 

Homeless advocates said that the 60-day notice policy also raises legal questions. 

“The state and the city have a legal obligation to ensure that people who lack shelter are safe and secure, and protected from exposure to the elements,” The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless said in a joint statement, calling on Adams to implement policies to address the needs of shelter capacity by expanding access to housing vouchers and bolstering the number of staff in agencies that help people move from shelter into permanent housing.