New York City and New York State are experiencing a humanitarian crisis as a result of the recent influx of asylum seekers and other new arrivals that is compounding the pre-existing and worsening crisis of mass homelessness.
Rather than working together to implement rational and humane solutions that we have called for since last year, Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul are currently seeking to gut New York City’s 42-year-old Right to Shelter for homeless single adults, as established under 1981’s Callahan consent decree.
On October 3, 2023, the City submitted a revised application to the New York State supreme court that would go far beyond limiting its obligation to provide some form of emergency shelter to asylum seekers and other new arrivals. If successful, the City would have the ability to declare an emergency, and effectively end the Right to Shelter for thousands of New Yorkers – including working poor individuals who rely on the shelter system and, alarmingly, individuals who rely on disability benefits. This would inevitably bring incalculable suffering to those in need.
The letter below to Mayor Adams from concerned organizations throughout New York City asks the Mayor to cease any efforts to undercut the Right to Shelter and to ensure that no one without a home is turned away, left to sleep outside, exposed and vulnerable.
The Honorable Eric Adams Mayor of the City of New York City Hall New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Adams:
For more than forty years, New York’s bedrock Right to Shelter has served as an inviolable baseline of humanity and decency, ensuring that people without homes are not relegated to bedding down in public spaces, dangerously exposed to the elements. It is because of this right that New York City does not have the vast tent encampments seen in so many other cities around the country. Since 1981, the Right to Shelter has meant that hundreds of thousands of homeless individuals have had an alternative to sleeping on the streets. Simply put, the Right to Shelter saves lives, and is integral to the humanity of our community.
We, the undersigned organizations, are vehemently opposed to your efforts to undermine the legal Right to Shelter for both new arrivals and longtime New Yorkers, as you propose doing in your October 3, 2023 letter to the court, and see such efforts as an abrogation of your moral and legal duties as the mayor of a sanctuary city, a city that has been a proud beacon of humane and progressive values for its entire history, and where we, as community, have long been dedicated to the ideal that no one should be left to live, or die, on our streets.
Further, we urge you to cease spreading the false narrative that people from other nations would simply cease coming to New York City if there were no Right to Shelter. People come to New York because it has a well-earned reputation as a welcoming and tolerant city of humane values, of opportunity, and of diverse cultures. That will not change, nor do we believe it should change. And thus gutting the Right to Shelter will not deter people from coming here. In fact, between 1970 and 1980, roughly 80,000 immigrants per year came into the city – before there was a Right to Shelter.
Destroying the legal Right to Shelter for homeless New Yorkers and newcomers would have a devastating impact on our community, would cause irreparable harm to countless people who lack a safe place to sleep, and would do nothing to solve the problems you are trying to address.
We urge you to continue working with Governor Hochul to ensure that no one without a home is turned away, left to sleep outside, exposed and vulnerable. There are better solutions to the current situation, some of which you and the Governor have already begun implementing, and which should be given time to have impact. And efforts must be made to move thousands of homeless households currently in shelters into permanent housing as quickly as possible.
This is a moment in history that will define your legacy. Removing the longstanding Right to Shelter and putting countless individuals at grave risk of injury and death is not the legacy we believe you wish to leave.
We stand ready to assist in all efforts to ensure that all in our community have access to safe and appropriate shelter, sufficient food, and a pathway to housing and stability.
Coalition for the HomelessThe Legal Aid Society Hunger Free AmericaCoalition for Homeless YouthCabrini Immigrant Services of NYCUlster Immigrant Defense NetworkEquality New YorkTransnational Villages Network – Red de Pueblos TransnacionalesJackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity NetworkHenry Street SettlementThe Partnership To End HomelessnessChinese-American Planning Council (CPC)Community Voices HeardThe Gathering for JusticeOpen Hearts InitiativeInterfaith Assembly on Homelessness and HousingNew York Civil Liberties Union/ACLU of New YorkAssociation for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD)Center for Community AlternativesBronxWorksSafe HorizonNew York County Defender ServicesVOCAL-NYRENA (Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association)NY Working Families PartySouth Bronx UniteHousing Rights InitiativeNorthwest Bronx Community and Clergy CoalitionHousing WorksCatholic Migration ServicesCaribbean Equality ProjectNeighbors TogetherRiverside Language Program, Inc.Sanctuary for FamiliesSamaritan Daytop Village, IncRefugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, Inc.Corporation for Supportive HousingStrong Economy for AllRoads to SuccessUniversity SettlementUnited Neighborhood HousesThe Health & Housing ConsortiumVolunteers of America-Greater New YorkInterfaith Assembly on Homelessness and HousingThe Harding Ford Vision, IncParents Supporting Parents NYThe Children’s VillageJews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ)WIN – Women in Need, Inc.Covenant House New YorkPublic Health SolutionsWorkers United NY NJ Regional Joint Board a/w SEIURising Ground, Inc.Citizen Action of New YorkWomen’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco)Metropolitan Community Church of New YorkNational Youth Rights Association – NYRAThe Black InstituteHealth x Housing Lab at NYU Langone HealthTenants & NeighborsUM Church of the VillageProject HajraChildren’s RightsMake the Road NYNew York Legal Assistance GroupThe New York Women’s FoundationPATHHSEOPratt Center for Community DevelopmentEnvision Freedom FundCenter for Popular Democracy ActionProject HospitalityNew York Communities for ChangeEast Harlem Tutorial Program