Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a press conference Monday that city residents may soon have to open their private residences to housing asylum seekers.
In Monday’s press conference Adams announced that the city is launching a “Faith-Based Shelter Program” for houses of worship to lend support amid a rapidly-worsening asylum seeker humanitarian crisis.
“No matter what faith you practice, caring for those in need is part of every spiritual tradition,” said Mayor Adams.
“As we continue to tackle this humanitarian crisis, I’m proud that through this new partnership with New York Disaster Interfaith Services, New York City’s faith community will be able to provide shelter to asylum seekers in need at houses of worship throughout the five boroughs,” he said.
The program will allow up to 50 houses of worship or faith-based spaces to offer overnight shelter for up to 19 single adult men at each location, and will open five daytime centers for the asylum seekers while the faith-based spaces offer their regular programming.
Although this new program will house about 1,000 asylum seekers, the city continues to struggle to find accommodations for the more than 46,000 asylum seekers residing in the city, already spending over $1.2 billion on the crisis this fiscal year alone.
Adams said that the city’s next step after utilizing faith-based spaces would be to look into housing asylum seekers in private residences.
“It is my vision to take the next step to this, go to the faith-based locales, and then move to private residence,” Adams said. “There are residents who are suffering right now because of economic challenges. They have spare rooms. They have locales.”
The Mayor explained that the city would be looking into legalizing housing asylum seekers in New York City residents’ basement apartments, possibly through a lease with the city.
“The closer we bring the asylum seekers and the migrants to everyday New Yorkers, the easier it would be for them to transition into society,” Adams said.
“But I want to be clear on this, this is not sustainable,” he said. “We cannot continue to sustain this with the inflow that we’re receiving.”
“We need work permits, we need a decompression strategy, we need real immigration reform,” he added.
In May, after facing backlash, Maine’s House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) withdrew her proposed bill that would have allowed homeless individuals to avoid criminal charges for criminal trespassing on private property if they are trying to find a place to sleep.
Cities in southern Maine, just like New York City, are facing a humanitarian crisis caused in large part by the busing of asylum seekers into their cities unannounced, overwhelming temporary housing options in shelters, hotels and motels, and quickly bringing municipal General Assistance programs to capacity.
NYC Mayor Adams’ proposal and Speaker Talbot Ross’ bill offer glimpses into what the future might look like absent long-term immigration and housing reform.