“Mayor Adams plans to force families experiencing their very first winter in the United States to uproot their lives every 60 days, without an idea of where they’ll end up once they hit their shelter limit. Children will face the prospect of changing schools after finally settling into their current ones.”
With the holiday season around the corner, New Yorkers are getting ready to celebrate with family, eat festive meals and form cherished lifelong memories.
But not all New Yorkers will be so lucky. Some of the most recent arrivals to our city seeking opportunity, community and work will be left in the cold without a bed, much less a turkey plate, thanks to heartless and cowardly decisions made by Mayor Eric Adams.
Specifically, Mayor Adams’ recent decision to impose a 60-day shelter limit on families with children as the winter sets in is one of his most offensive moves yet. Families legally seeking asylum who have been in our overburdened shelter system now face the real possibility of sleeping on the streets because of the administration’s inability to come up with long-term solutions since the first buses arrived at the Port Authority over a year ago.
Instead, Mayor Adams plans to force families experiencing their very first winter in the United States to uproot their lives every 60 days, without an idea of where they’ll end up once they hit their shelter limit. Children will face the prospect of changing schools after finally settling into their current ones.
It’s a cruel, needless policy. The new 60-day rule sends one clear message: Mayor Adams wants to throw our most vulnerable and youngest new neighbors onto cold winter streets with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Winter is already a tough time for most New Yorkers, and even more so for new arrivals. Those who have found work in the informal and gig economies are set to have their income affected by adverse weather. Many street vendors will have to close up shop as the temperature drops and Deliveristas will have to brave the cold as they bring food to our homes. Any who have managed to find construction work will see their income dry up as projects settle for the winter. And this is the moment city officials choose to compound this pain by destabilizing what little stability asylum seekers have found in our shelter system.
The early results of the 60-day rule demonstrate that this move has unleashed chaos and confusion in the lives of asylum-seeking families. Many migrants who have attempted to apply for reentry have been bounced around from shelter to shelter before getting assigned a bed. Even so, over 1,500 migrants have trekked all over the city to apply for shelter reentry.
The 60-day rule also prevents folks from accessing a stable address, making it exceedingly difficult for recent arrivals to process their asylum claims and apply for work permits in a timely matter—thus prolonging the amount of time they have to depend on city services.
The bottom line is that the 60-day rule sets a manufactured timeline and creates real problems in people’s lives.
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Thankfully, we know there is a solution that provides relief to shelters while easing the financial strain on the city. Our research alongside WIN, the city’s largest shelter provider, shows that if New York City opens up housing voucher eligibility to asylum seekers, we can save a whopping $3 billion dollars a year. Housing vouchers are a humane solution that allow families to access a roof over their heads and basic necessities like heat and privacy to kickstart their new lives.
Housing subsidy programs like CityFHEPS are widely recognized as one of the most effective tools to combat homelessness. Once families are placed in subsidized housing, they are far less likely to re-enter the shelter system. In Fiscal Year 2022, 15 percent of families who exited shelter without a subsidy returned within one year, compared to less than 1 percent of families who exited with a subsidy.
Federal research shows that access to rental subsidies produces far-reaching benefits in other domains of family well-being, including halving intimate partner violence, increasing food security, and reducing adult psychological distress, parent-child separation, and behavioral problems for children.
City leaders must give asylum seekers a fighting chance this winter. Let’s provide a baseline of stability so they can continue the rich legacy of immigrant contributions to our city. We are not a city that turns away those who need help. We are the city whose towering symbol on Liberty Island says with humility to “send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me… I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Let’s lift our lamps and open our doors as we help keep our newest neighbors safe and warm.
Murad Awawdeh is executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.