“The 60-day shelter limit runs counter to the very purpose of shelters: to keep vulnerable homeless families and individuals safe and off the streets.”

Adi Talwar

Elizabeth Leon and her family in January, heading to reapply for a shelter placement after their 60-day stay expired.

The height of winter has come and gone in New York City, and Mayor Eric Adams continues to evict homeless families once their 60-day shelter limit expires.

Mayor Adams created the 60-day shelter limit back in October to ease pressure on the city’s overwhelming shelter population. The limit targets the more than 60,000 migrants residing in city shelters, including families with children.

In an effort to impose this limit, the city is distributing 60-day notices to migrant families in shelters, which insinuate that once the 60 days have passed, the city will kick families out of their shelter system and they will no longer be able to re-apply for housing. However, the notice left out a critical piece of information: Migrant families can re-apply for shelter in the city once the 60 days are up.

We have already seen thousands of asylum seeking families left in the cold following the first waves of evictions under the 60-day rule. Mayor Adams and his administration must immediately halt their plans to forcibly remove migrant families with children from shelters.

The 60-day shelter limit runs counter to the very purpose of shelters: to keep vulnerable homeless families and individuals safe and off the streets. The first waves of evictions forced these homeless families to endure unsafe conditions or be pushed out onto the streets during the height of the winter season. Beyond the dangerous freezing temperatures and confusion migrant families faced, the 60-day shelter limit evictions will undoubtedly increase tent cities across New York. More rounds of shelter limit evictions will only cause more pain for these vulnerable families.

Further removal of migrant families from shelters will also have a destabilizing effect on homeless children, as they will likely need to switch schools to reduce their commute time. Seeking an education in New York City is already an incredibly unfamiliar experience for migrant children—the majority of whom come from families who do not speak English. Consistency and routine in education are critical for the development of any young child. Moving migrant children out of shelter after 60 days and forcing a school change will create unfair barriers to their success, and have a detrimental impact on their social development.

Elected officials across New York are taking action to address this urgent crisis and outlaw limits on shelter, with Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz and State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal proposing legislation at the state level, and City Councilmember Shahana Hanif introducing legislation at the local level. Yet Mayor Adams continues to argue that housing migrant families is a burden on the city’s budget and a strain on current shelter populations.

In reality, however, the crisis has only exacerbated the larger housing shortage that existed long before migrant arrivals. The 60-day shelter limit evictions are no solution to the crisis and have a destabilizing impact on migrant families and long-time New York City residents alike.

The Adams administration should instead implement strategies to both prevent entrance into and expedite exits from shelter and into stable housing for eligible New York City families, so that the shelter system can better respond to the needs of migrant families. 

The creation of the Affordable Housing Services (AHS) initiative that will create 1,500 permanent affordable homes for those in shelter with CityFHEPS vouchers is a good place to start. But Mayor Adams must comply with the law to expand CityFHEPS eligibility to expedite access to housing support for families in the community and shelters, unloading the current burden of the shelter system as more families are placed into permanent housing.

The mayor should also work to improve public benefit access and retention by addressing the Human Resources Administration (HRA) staffing shortage, removing red tape, and implementing technology solutions to ensure CityFHEPS payments and renewals, cash aid, SNAP, childcare, Medicaid and other benefits are secured and not disrupted in transition to permanent housing. The city must also reduce steps and streamline the process to fill vacant affordable housing units made available through Housing Connect to meaningfully reduce lease up times, and allow all families access to units set aside by the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD).

Lastly, Mayor Adams must prioritize access to Homebase services by refraining from budget cuts and advocating for additional funding to expand capacity within existing programs and open new sites. This will ensure that families have access to supportive services such emergency rental assistance, housing subsidies renewals and legal assistance, to avoid shelter entrance and continue their path to housing and economic mobility.

Mayor Adams has a choice. His administration could continue to enforce draconian 60-day shelter limits, or he could move forward on housing policies that support all New York City families while alleviating the urgent housing crisis.

Pierina Ana Sanchez and Rita Joseph are members of the New York City Council.