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New York City runs out of shelter


WORLD Radio - New York City runs out of shelter

The Big Apple bites off more than it can handle in the wake of declaring itself a sanctuary city for migrants last year

Migrants sit outside of The Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Associated Press/Photo by John Minchillo

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 15th of August, 2023.

Thanks for listening to WORLD Radio! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

First up on The World and Everything in It: The immigration crisis in New York.

Last Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams addressed what has become a humanitarian crisis: City shelters full of immigrants have hit capacity.

AUDIO: For centuries, immigrants have made that remarkable journey. And the asylum seekers who have arrived in our city since last spring are writing a new chapter in this timeless story. But as I declared nearly a year ago, we are facing an unprecedented state of emergency.

REICHARD: For some New Yorkers, Adams’s call for help seems hypocritical. They remember what he said in the past about the Big Apple’s status as a sanctuary city. WORLD intern Alex Carmenaty got out into the streets and listened to what New Yorkers are saying.

MILLMAN: Uh, in the beginning, he was very welcoming to the migrants. But now, I think he's overwhelmed by how just how many have showed up?

PACE: And now he's saying, No, you have to stay either on the streets, or we're gonna put you here, we're gonna put you there. We're gonna have to put you in people's homes, or whatever that may be.

EGAN: Adams, naive, or maybe a little hypocritical, maybe a little of both. And I chalk some of that off to the fact that he's a politician. And they play both sides of the fence quite often.

EICHER: Right now, Adams is contending with nearly 100,000 asylum seekers who crossed the fence down at the Southern border and are looking for a better life.

And that’s just a fraction of the nearly 3 million border crossings in 2022. WORLD reporter Addie Offereins says that while border towns in Texas have born the brunt of the immigration crisis, New York is to them a plum destination.

ADDIE OFFEREINS: I think what's different here is that for New York City, this is the final destination kind of the longed for, hoped for American destination for a lot of these people And so they've traveled farther finally here, and they want to build a life in New York.

Many of those who wanted to do that didn’t have the money to do that. So, Texas Governor Greg Abbott chartered the first bus from the U.S.-Mexico border to Manhattan last summer. Tens of thousands more immigrants have since streamed into the city in droves.

When Adams protested, Abbott pointed out that the mayor had basically asked for it.

ABBOTT: I removed them to locations that self identified as sanctuary cities that have the capability and the desire to help out these migrants. So, that’s exactly what’s taken place.

REICHARD: Now, homeless immigrants make up over half of the people in New York City’s strained shelter system. Adams says the federal government has a responsibility to help New York manage the consequences of a crisis Congress is unwilling to address.

ADAMS: That means over the course of three fiscal years, our city is projected to have spent more than $12 billion. This is the budgetary reality we are facing if we don't get the additional support we need from the federal and state governments.

But insufficient funding isn’t the most serious problem on Mayor Adams’ hands. He is also asking a judge to modify the Right to Shelter mandate that requires the city to provide a bed for everyone who wants one.

EICHER: Nicole Gelinas is a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute. She says the shelter mandate plays a key role in incentivizing the trip north.

GELINAS: The issue with the right to shelter right now is does it apply to a crisis that was never contemplated when the right to shelter was created.

Back in 1982, advocates for the homeless sued the city on behalf of a few thousand homeless men unable to rent an apartment because of a physical or mental disability. The court expanded the order to women and children a few years later.

Now the city rents thousands of apartments for homeless families every night.

GELINAS: Here we have something never contemplated at the time, thousands of people arriving in New York City every single week and showing up in being eligible for the right to shelter. And it's something that just cannot work on this scale and it’s not a financial issue. The mayor Eric Adams keeps asking for federal money. It’s more of an issue of running out of physical locations to house people.

REICHARD: And the migrants filling up shelters and hotels are going nowhere soon. Those who apply for asylum have to wait six months before they can start working and earn the money necessary to move into permanent housing. But many migrants don’t understand how to apply for asylum, and so the clock hasn’t even begun for them to start building a permanent life in New York.

And so leaders like Mayor Adams are left with a dilemma. Addie Offereins explains.

OFFEREINS: It's kind of this tricky balance of we want to make sure people are cared for compassionately, but then at the same time, is it compassionate to keep incentivizing people to come with promises of a good life and promises of shelter when the reality on the ground in New York City is sky high rents, work restrictions and a life that's a lot harder to build than maybe is advertised or thought of by these immigrants before they actually get there.

Addie Offereins is WORLD’s compassion reporter.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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