As of March 31, City Hall has issued approximately 1,500 notices “to make alternate arrangement” to immigrants with 30-day shelter stays and to another 1,300 with 60-day notices, which are being offered to single migrants under 23.

Daniel Parra

From left to right: A migrant shows the wristband he received to hold his place on the shelter waitlist; Gabriel Ramos, 28, outside the St. Brigid’s School; a version of the letter distributed to those seeking shelter about the new settlement rules.

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Gabriel Ramos, 28, had been sleeping in train stations for 12 nights, while during the day looking for work and reapplying for shelter at the former St. Brigid School in the East Village.

When City Limits visited last week, the facility—used for months by the city a processing center for migrants seeking another shelter bed after their initial stays expired, or for tickets out of town—was devoid of the long lines that once snaked around the old school.

Instead, dozens of immigrants sat on the benches in nearby Tompkins Square Park, from time to time checking in at the so-called “reticketing center” to see if a cot was available.

“The most I’ve ever slept on the street is 18 days” in a row, Ramos said in Spanish, minutes before going inside and trying again. A Venezuelan, he arrived in the city in November and has reapplied three times for shelter.

He’s among those who’ve continued to seek a new placement following a legal settlement last month around New York’s long-standing right to shelter rules, which for decades have required the city to shelter anyone in need, at least temporarily.

Under the settlement, adults without children who’ve arrived from another country since March 15, 2022, and wish to remain in the shelter system following an initial 30- or 60-day stay will have to apply for an “extenuating circumstance” exception, unless they are disabled.

New notices describing six scenarios under which an extension may be granted started going out last week, said Joshua Goldfein, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, which helped negotiate the settlement with the city alongside Coalition for the Homeless.

As of March 31, City Hall has issued approximately 1,500 notices “to make alternate arrangement” to immigrants with 30-day shelter stays and to another 1,300 with 60-day notices, which are being offered to single migrants 23 and younger.

“Except in very limited situations discussed below, the City will not give you another placement,” the notice reads, before detailing a series of criteria in which someone might earn an exemption.

During a press conference last week, Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said the administration is working to implement the new system—with the terms of the settlement expected to go into effect April 8—and that it will start with a “small pilot.”

“We are getting up to speed, but it’s going to be the middle of April when we’re really going to be starting system-wide with these assessments,” she said.

Applicants may qualify for an “extenuating circumstances” extension if they have an immigration hearing coming soon, are set to undergo a serious medical procedure or are recovering from one.

Making efforts to exit the shelter system, having a pending lease and needing more time, or searching for employment are also included in the settlement as ways to secure a new shelter placement.

While employment is among the considerations for obtaining an additional month’s stay, under the current circumstances, it is precisely the lengthy reapplication process that has made it harder to maintain a job, some immigrants in shelter said.

Ramos, for example, explained that he worked in construction. But after several days of staying on the street, not getting a good night’s sleep, having no place to bathe, going to work tired, and asking for days off to reapply for shelter, he lost his job.

“After going 11 days without bathing,” Ramos said, “I was able to bathe myself yesterday.”

“I was walking down Roosevelt Avenue, looking for work and food, when a lady offered to let me bathe in her apartment,” he added.

The settlement agreement now requires the city to eliminate the wait time for an additional shelter placement by April 8, Goldfein explained. As of March 29, the average wait for a new bed for those whose initial stays already expired was two to three days, according to the mayor’s office, while 1,283 people were on the waitlist for a cot.

Robinson Vanegas, 53, was reapplying last week after his time at a shelter in Brooklyn expired. At St. Brigid’s, he was given a phosphorescent green paper wristband with his case number on it and was assigned to a waiting area in Brooklyn—one of several bare-bones sites the city has used to allow migrants a place to stay overnight, but which lack beds and other amenities.

“Now you spend 30 days in a cot and 15 on the floor,” Vanegas said in Spanish.

Under the new settlement terms, waiting rooms will no longer be allowed to function as overnight shelters and will need to meet minimum standards, including access to a cot, toilet, and shower.

“The city still needs to make sure it has enough shelter beds so that no one who needs a place to sleep at night is turned away, or made to sleep in chair,” said David Giffen, executive director of Coalition for the Homeless.

The number of immigrants in the city’s custody has declined slightly in the last couple of months—from a high of 69,000 in mid-January to about 64,200 as of March 24.

The mayor’s office said that despite the dip, the city is not leaving open beds unused, adding that the introduction of curfews, such as those coming to three emergency shelters for migrants this month, would also help manage capacity.

“There are a lot of eyes on the city right now to see how they’re going to implement the settlement, and one thing everyone agrees on is that it must not result in more people sleeping on the streets,” Giffen said. “That would be a huge failure.”

Still, several migrants told City Limits they were confused about the new rules and whether or not they could seek more time.

An immigrant who has been seeking another placement showed City Limits a letter he’d received from the city. In Spanish, the first paragraph stated that he could not reapply for shelter after an initial stay—a few paragraphs down, however, the letter stated that if he could show “extenuating circumstances,” the city could grant an extension.

“They told me inside [the Reticketing Center] that once they changed the rules you could not reapply for shelter,” said the 54-year-old Venezuelan migrant, who asked that City Limits withhold his full name.

Advocates said another question is whether young people who are enrolled in high school will be able to use a letter from the institution to get a shelter extension. Under the new agreement, those under 23 years of age will have a longer stay of 60 days instead of 30.

While Appendix A of the settlement agreement contains a longer and more detailed list of what constitutes “extenuating circumstances” than the six short cases listed in the new city notices, it doesn’t include an extension for being enrolled in high school.

“One of the things that is really missing from that list… is that school isn’t on there,” said Jamie Powlovich, executive director of the Coalition for Homeless Youth. “A letter from a school is not even an automatic allowance that you’re going to be given an extension.”

City Hall said it will address extensions on a case-by-case basis.

“We just fear that this is going to play out with a lot of people on the street,” said Powlovich.

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