Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday doubled down on his claim that thousands of asylum-seekers have strained New York City’s homeless shelter system, causing his administration to break state law by keeping at least four families in an intake facility overnight.

Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference podium in City Hall

Violet Mendelsund/Mayoral Photography Office

The Adams administration at a press conference Thursday about asylum seekers coming to New York City.

Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday doubled down on his claim that thousands of asylum-seekers have strained New York City’s homeless shelter system, causing his administration to break state law by keeping at least four families in an intake facility overnight.

Adams held a press conference to follow up on a statement he released two days earlier asserting that 2,800 recently-arrived immigrants had entered the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter system and stretched the agency’s capacity to provide temporary accommodations. On Thursday, he said that number was now more than 3,000 people.

READ MORE: Who Are The Families Entering NYC Shelters From the Southern Border?

Adams’ initial statement, delivered two days after Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser made similar comments on a morning news show, triggered national attention, much of it xenophobic, and came ahead of an NBC4 report about families sleeping on floors and staying in the shelter intake facility past a 10 p.m deadline.

New York City is under unique court-order to provide temporary shelter to any family that applies while DHS staff investigate whether they have another place to stay. Under local law, anyone who arrives at The Bronx family intake shelter before 10 p.m. must be placed in overnight accommodations.

Adams said Thursday that leaving families inside the intake center was “not acceptable” but congratulated his administration for meeting the needs of an “unprecedented, historical level of children and families” entering the shelter system. He also said he has requested financial assistance from the Biden Administration.

Though there has been a marked rise in the number of people entering the city’s shelter system after crossing the Southern Border, advocates say Adams is using their presence, and exaggerating their number, to justify missteps in providing accommodations as required by law.

“As city officials just acknowledged, they have known about this influx of families, a portion attributable to those seeking asylum, for months,” said the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless in a joint statement following Adams’ press conference. “But, despite this knowledge, the Administration still lacks a plan to ensure safe shelter placement, and officials failed to detail any specifics for a viable path forward at today’s press conference, opting instead to heap praise on each other.”

As first reported by City Limits, the city has resumed renting hotels to keep up with the demande for rooms for families. Last week, administration officials said they “typically see an increase in our shelter population during the summer months” but did not mention the rise in asylum-seekers.

DHS does not ask shelter applicants for their immigration status upon entering shelter, leaving the agency and a municipal task force set up earlier this month to make assumptions based on factors like their benefit eligibility—noncitizens without legal status cannot apply for food stamps, for example—or from conversations with families who said they recently arrived in the U.S., staff told City Limits.

Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins, who oversees DHS, said Thursday that the number of new immigrants and asylum-seekers entering the shelter system is an estimate, but reflects an increase that began in late-May and early June. He also said the agency will “not be deterred by unprecedented challenges or unhelpful narratives questioning the veracity of our analysis.”

Yet advocates and reporters have questioned whether the homeless shelter census, tracked daily by City Limits, bears out the “unprecedented surge” cited by the Adams administration.

Since June 1, the DHS shelter population has risen by about 2,000 people as evictions increase, rents soar and people receiving rental assistance vouchers struggle to use them to secure permanent housing. The arrival of asylum-seekers, including seven families from Venezuela interviewed by City Limits in recent weeks, also contributes to the increase.

The number of families entering the DHS shelter system has risen since the January end of eviction protections—from 8,455 on Jan. 2 to 9,375 families on July 17, City Limits’ tracker shows.

Historically, people entering the shelter system from outside New York City account for a relatively small percentage of the DHS population, as evictions and an affordable housing shortage drive homelessness in the Big Apple. Data from 2017 and 2021 obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests show that 93 to 96 percent of shelter residents gave a last permanent address within the five boroughs. City Limits has filed a request for current data on shelter residents’ last associated address.

In the case of the asylum-seekers who recently arrived in New York City, usually with the help of churches and nonprofits based in border states, the right to shelter provides a crucial lifeline.

But one mother interviewed by City Limits said she was distraught about reactions to her family’s arrival. She said a local TV news outlet portrayed her family as “taking advantage” of New York City’s social safety net, though she and her relatives are seeking asylum after fleeing crises in Venezuela.

They are looking for jobs and trying to determine how to find housing, she said.

“I don’t see myself [in shelter] in the long term,” she told City Limits.