To Get a Shelter Bed in New York, Now Some Migrants Must Take a Number – 24 Global News | Latest International Breaking News Today

To Get a Shelter Bed in New York, Now Some Migrants Must Take a Number – Latest International Breaking News Today

Moises Chacon is number 14,861. Jon Cordero’s number is in the 15,000s. Oumar Camara’s wristband says he is number 16,700.

The men are all migrants who have come up against New York City’s 30-day limit for single adults on stays at any one homeless shelter. After 30 days, anyone who wants to stay in the shelter system has to reapply. But there are not enough beds these days, so each person has to take a number at a city office in the East Village in Manhattan, and wait.

As of Tuesday, several migrants said, the city had reached people with numbers in the 14,000s. For those with higher numbers, the city offered only a spot on the floor or a chair at one of a handful of waiting centers scattered around the five boroughs.

New York City has a unique “right to shelter” that requires it to provide a bed to every homeless person who asks. In recent weeks, however, for increasing numbers of migrants, the guarantee has become something that exists only on paper.

The Legal Aid Society, which monitors the city’s compliance with the right-to-shelter mandate, said on Monday that it had been told by the city that on any given night, 800 to 1,000 migrants are left on the waiting list, and that the average wait for a bed is more than eight days. City officials declined to confirm or contradict the numbers cited by Legal Aid.

As the number of migrants left waiting for beds is growing, so is the city’s broader homeless population, several measures show. Inside the city’s main shelter system, the number of non-migrants has risen 16 percent in the past year.

Even before the migrant wait list took effect, more people appeared to be sleeping in streets and subways: The number of people on the city’s homeless-outreach list was up 30 percent last September, compared with September 2022.

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On Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, the city conducted its annual federally mandated tally of people sleeping in streets and subways, known as the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate or HOPE. Last January’s estimate was just over 4,000 people — the most in nearly 20 years. This year’s count seemed likely to include some of the migrants who are waiting for the city to offer them beds.

“We usually collect bottles around the stations from around 5 till 11 at night and then usually just sleep on the trains — it’s somewhere warm,” said Kevin Benitez Caicedo, 28, who arrived in New York from Ecuador in December and lost his shelter bed last week.

As winter digs its heels in — last week was the coldest in the city in nearly five years, with wind chills dipping to the single digits — life for many of the city’s nearly 70,000 homeless migrants has become progressively bleaker.

They spend their days trying to figure out where they will spend their nights. They ride the trains to kill time and stay warm until waiting centers open. They carry their possessions everywhere they go. Many have gone days without showers.

Mayor Eric Adams has been saying for months that the city cannot afford to indefinitely house and feed ever-increasing numbers of migrants. Since last year, the city has been in court trying to weaken the shelter guarantee. It is now in mediation with the Legal Aid Society, which has pressured the city to offer beds to every migrant. So far, the judge in the right-to-shelter case has not ordered the city to provide beds to those who are waiting.

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“Right now, as it stands, someone can come from anywhere on the globe, come to New York, stay for free on taxpayers’ dime as long as they want. That makes no sense,” Mr. Adams said at a town-hall meeting in the Bronx Monday night.

The 30-day limit is one of several tactics the city is using to push migrants to leave the shelter system.

The time limits have been effective: More than 80 percent of migrants who are evicted leave the shelter system, and over the past six weeks, the number of migrants in shelters fell slightly. But thousands who have nowhere else to go seek to stay.

“There’s little doubt that the efforts that the city is taking to make the shelter system for the new arrivals more difficult and less friendly is resulting in more people ending up not in that system,” Dave Giffen, the executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, said on Tuesday.

While he said that some people may be staying on friends’ couches or in churches, he added, “without a doubt, more people are ending up unsheltered on the streets.”

In the line outside the reapplication center, at a former Catholic school, St. Brigid, on East Seventh Street, Mr. Caicedo said he would rather be working. “But everywhere we go they say we can’t work because we don’t have papers yet. How can we rent an apartment if we don’t have work?”

His friend Mr. Chacon, 37, from Venezuela, answered him: “You have to go to another state. We’ve been talking about it, everyone is talking about it; I’d say it’s about 90 percent of the people here who want to leave.”

Mario Nardini, 60, from Peru, who has been without a bed for six days, said on Tuesday that the city had assigned him to a different waiting center each night. “One day they sent me to Brooklyn, one day to the Bronx, the other day to Queens,” he said. On Sunday night at a center in Brooklyn, he said, “the floor was hard — they don’t give a blanket or anything.”

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The city is legally obligated to provide homeless people with meals that are “adequate in amount and content to meet their dietary needs,” but many migrants say they are being offered only a meal in the morning, outside the East Village office, and then a snack of a banana, an apple and water (and sometimes a cookie) at night at the waiting centers.

Mr. Nardini said that he saves half of his breakfast to last him the rest of the day.

On Tuesday, Manuel Rodriguez, 26, a barber from Colombia, wristband number 16,363, was in his second day of waiting for a bed.

But he had a lead on something good.

“They said that at the church there, for the first 20 people they will let them shower and give them a new jacket,” he said, referring to the Bowery Mission nearby. “Tomorrow morning I’ll have to get there really early. Very, very early.”

-24 Global News | Latest International Breaking News Today
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