Speaker Adams opposes proposed changes to right to shelter

Mayor Eric Adams wants the courts to release the city from an obligation to house everyone who needs shelter, but the City Council does not.

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams holds a pre-stated press conference on Oct. 5, 2023.

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams holds a pre-stated press conference on Oct. 5, 2023. Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams remains firmly opposed to any efforts to change aspects of the city’s right to shelter mandate, setting up a contrast with Mayor Eric Adams, whose administration is currently seeking to modify the longstanding policy. 

“This council strongly believes in the right to shelter and the way that the Callahan decree is formulated is the way that we believe that we need to go forward,” she told reporters during a Thursday press conference, referring to the court order that established the right to shelter. “We’re looking for solutions. When it comes to this overall crisis, we all have to continue putting our heads together to work together to come up with solutions to the crisis itself.”

Her words come two days after the Adams administration submitted an updated request to the court to modify the Callahan decree, which for decades has imposed an obligation on the city to provide shelter to anyone who seeks it. City Hall’s proposed modification would suspend the right to shelter whenever the city’s homeless population spikes amid a state of emergency. 

City officials have described its request for relief from the right to shelter mandate as necessary given the “unprecedented” challenges posed by the ongoing arrival of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers – roughly half of whom remain in city care. The Adams administration argues that the consent decree – which has been in place since 1981 – is outdated, having been crafted at a time in which there was no knowledge of the sheer extent of the challenge at hand. The changes to the right to shelter sought by the city would only apply to single adults, not families. But it would apply to all single adults seeking shelter, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. It would not be limited to migrants.