A Record 100,000 People in New York Homeless Shelters

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New York City passed a woeful milestone this week, spurred by an influx of migrants from the nation’s southern border: For the first time, there are now over 100,000 people in homeless shelters here, city officials said on Wednesday.

Days earlier, the city said that the number of migrants in shelters had passed 50,000 and that, for the first time, they made up the majority of people in homeless shelters in the city.

The city, under Mayor Eric Adams, has spent over a billion dollars to house the migrants since they started arriving in large numbers in the spring of 2022. It expects to spend over $4 billion by next year.

City officials used the occasion as another opportunity to ask the state and federal governments for help: help finding migrants temporary homes outside the city; help feeding and housing the ones who are here; help getting them work permits; help finding lawyers or even interested nonlawyers to help with their asylum claims.

“If there was a national coordination of this,” Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said at her weekly press briefing on the crisis, “then the burden wouldn’t be so much on New York City.”

She said that 2,500 asylum seekers had entered shelters in the last week alone. Of the 50,000 now in shelters, more than two-thirds are families with children.

At the same time, the city’s nonmigrant homeless population may also be growing. When Mr. Adams took office, there were 45,000 people in the city’s main shelter system. Now there are over 81,000, and while the city did not give detailed breakouts, the number of nonmigrants in the system appears to be nearing 50,000. (At least 17,000 migrants are in facilities outside the main shelter system, the city says, which include large hotels and other venues set up especially to house them.)

In all, about 1 in 80 people in the nation’s largest city does not have a permanent place to live.

The migrants are now housed at over 150 sites, including hotels, regular shelters, vast “emergency relief centers” and “respite centers” that the administration revealed last week do not have showers on site.

Again and again, they have tested the city’s reputation as a place that welcomes immigrants.

Last month, after the expiration of a national immigration policy that had let the authorities expel many migrants at the border, their numbers accelerated, leading the city to seek judicial relief from its unique court-enforced mandate to offer a shelter bed to anyone who wants one.

Ms. Williams-Isom was asked at the briefing if the city was expecting another increase in immigrants. Her answer struck a beleaguered, desperate note.

“We are still in the middle of this wave,” she said. “And so, is it going to get more, is it going to get less? I have no idea because we are just dealing with it in terms of what comes to the front door and doing the best that we can as people come to the front door.”

“I know we’re at a breaking point,” she added, “and my heart breaks when I see children coming into our arrival center and sitting there and being exhausted and wondering and hoping that we have enough space for them.”

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