Citing migrant influx, New York mayor asks court to suspend long-standing ‘right to shelter’

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s mayor asked a judge Tuesday to temporarily set aside its long-standing “right to shelter” mandate, saying it could no longer meet its legal obligation to house every homeless person because of the arrival of tens of thousands of international migrants.

The right to shelter has been in place for more than four decades in the city, after a court in 1981 required the city to provide temporary shelter for every homeless person who asks for it. Other big U.S. cities don’t have such a rule.

But with the arrival of 70,000 asylum seekers since last spring, many of whom crossed into the U.S. from Mexico, the city has been challenged to find room for everyone in need of a temporary roof and bed.

“It is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.

“Being dishonest about this will only result in our system collapsing, and we need our government partners to know the truth and do their share,” said the mayor, a Democrat.

Adams said he was not seeking to permanently end the right to shelter but was seeking “clarity from the court.”

The proposal was condemned by some housing advocates, who said it could result in more people living outdoors.

Joe Loonam, housing campaign coordinator for the advocacy organization VOCAL-NY, said Adams wants “to end the right to shelter that has prevented New York City from following in the footsteps of places like LA and San Francisco where thousands of people are in horrendous conditions out on the street.”

New York’s shelter system is now filled to record levels. The city says it is currently providing housing for 93,000 people. In recent months it has rented out entire hotels to house the influx of migrants, at great cost. It has also put some on cots in schools, and temporarily housed people in tents, a cruise ship terminal and a former police academy building.

In a letter to the deputy chief administrative judge for New York City Courts, the city’s lawyers asked for a change in the law that would allow officials to suspend the right to shelter when the Department of Homeless Services lacks the resources to house everyone safely.

Adams has sought financial help from the state and federal government and has been critical of President Joe Biden’s administration for not providing funding to care for migrants.

In recent weeks, the city has begun paying to house some asylum seekers at hotels in counties north of the city, but that action has stoked anger and accusations that the city was dumping its problems on other communities.


Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.

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