TODAY’S READ: Settlement reached over ‘Right to Shelter’ law in New York City

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NEW YORK (WABC) — The legal agreement between New York City and homeless advocates scales back the decades-old ‘Right to Shelter’ law as the city tries to find housing for thousands of migrant adults.

The terms of the settlement ease the burden on city shelters by limiting adult migrants to stays of no more than 30 days, the city said.

Families with children would not be affected and some adults would be allowed to stay longer if they meet certain conditions.

The Right to Shelter law became a target because, Mayor Eric Adams had argued, the city has been pushed to brink financially because of the influx of asylum seekers.

In announcing the settlement, Adams said the city’s shelter system had fewer than 2,500 people in its care when the law went into effect compared to the 120,000 people today. More than half of them are migrants.

Homeless advocates pushed back, saying thousands of New Yorkers would be denied shelter as a result and New Yorkers would start to see more encampments on the streets.

The settlement comes after months of negotiations between city officials and the Legal Aid Society, representing homeless advocates.

The new rules are temporary, as they will only exist as long as the migrant crisis continues and apply only to new arrivals who are single adults.

The agreement preserves the underlying 1981 Right to Shelter consent decree and prevents the government from automatically denying shelter to any group of people if they have no other place to go. It guarantees the Right to Shelter for anyone – longer-term New Yorkers and new arrivals alike – while ensuring the City’s compliance with multiple court orders and existing law.

“This settlement safeguards the right to shelter in the consent decree, ensuring single adults’ – both long-time New Yorkers and new arrivals – access to shelter, basic necessities and case management to transition from shelter to housing in the community,” said Adriene Holder, Chief Attorney of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society.. “It also requires the City to immediately eliminate the use of waiting rooms as shelters where new arrivals have been sleeping on chairs and floors while they wait for shelter placement.”

Mayor Adams said the settlement “grants us additional flexibility during times of crisis, like the national humanitarian crisis we are currently experiencing.”

He said the settlement gives New York City additional tools to address the crisis while ensuring that the most vulnerable can continue to receive the support they need.

“Like impacted cities across the country, we cannot bear the brunt of this crisis alone and continue to seek significant support from our federal partners, including expedited work authorizations, more funding, and a national resettlement strategy,” Adams said.

Nearly 190,000 migrants have passed through the city’s shelter system since the spring of 2022.

Under the new rules, younger adult migrants, between the ages of 18 and 23, can stay up to 60 days in the shelter system before having to move out.

Migrant families with children can stay in shelters for up to 60 days, with the option of reapplying.