New York moves to lift right to shelter law

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(The Center Square) — New York City is seeking to lift its decades-old right-to-shelter law amid an ongoing surge of asylum-seekers that has pushed the city’s emergency housing system to the brink.

In a letter to New York Supreme Court justice Erika Edwards, lawyers for New York City Mayor Eric Adams requested judicial approval to temporarily suspend a 1981 consent decree that requires the city to provide shelter to homeless individuals.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Daniel Perez wrote that the decree’s “onerous terms are demonstrably ill-suited to present circumstances and restrain the city at a time when flexibility to deal with the emergency is paramount.”

“The consent judgment — entered over 40 years ago under far different circumstances — has become outmoded and cumbersome in the face of the present migrant crisis,” he wrote.

City officials also asked that the rules be suspended whenever the governor or mayor declares a state of emergency, and there is an influx of people seeking shelter.

Adams, who is visiting Mexico and other Latin and South American countries on a four-day fact-finding tour this week, said the city has no choice but to move to suspend the right-to-shelter law.

“With more than 122,700 asylum seekers having come through our intake system since the spring of 2022, and projected costs of over $12 billion for three years, it is abundantly clear that the status quo cannot continue,” the Democrat said in a statement.

The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless ripped Adam’s move, saying it would “gut” a law the groups pushed for to protect homeless people.

“This is the city’s most significant and damaging attempt to retreat on its legal and moral obligation to provide safe and decent shelter for people without homes since that right was established 42 years ago,” the groups said in a statement. “Street homelessness would balloon to a level unseen in our city since the Great Depression.”

New York City has seen more than 118,000 asylum-seekers arrive in the city amid a surge of undocumented immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border over the past year. The city has opened more than 200 “humanitarian” shelters to accommodate the influx of migrants, with more arriving daily.

In July, the Adams administration moved to limit homeless shelter stays for single adult asylum seekers to 60 days to create more space for migrant families with children. In September, the city’s shelter limit was reduced to 30 days.

New York City alone has spent more than $1 billion so far housing migrants, and Adams said the cost could rise to $12 billion in coming years without more money and resources from the state and federal governments.

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