After four decades, New York City’s right to shelter law faced a policy shift in October under Mayor Eric Adams. Known as a 60-day rule, the new policy imposes a limit on the amount of time an asylum seeker could stay in City shelter facilities.
Here is what the 60-day rule means for asylum seekers residing in New York City shelters.
- Approximately 4,800 asylum seekers were given 60-day notices to find alternative accommodation
- Families can reapply for shelter at the Roosevelt Hotel, 45 East 45th Street
- During the 2-month period, asylum seeker families are assigned case managers to assist in finding alternative forms of housing
- The city has set up an Office of Asylum Seeker Operations (OASO) to help address migrants’ needs, including relocation
What is the right to shelter?
Resulting from a landmark ruling that dates back to 1981, New York City holds the obligation to provide shelter to homeless men, women, children and families in the City. Simply known as the right to shelter, it assures any person who “met the need standard for welfare or who were homeless ‘by reason of physical, mental, or social dysfunction,” to receive a bed in one of the city’s shelters within 24 hours of presenting themselves at one of the shelter intake locations.
Shelters aim to give temporary housing to individuals while also providing resources to help them find permanent homes, through the assistance of governmental programs like CityFHEPS, a rental assistance supplement to help individuals and families find and keep housing.
For those who did not qualify for CityFHEPS, the stay in the shelter was indefinite. That is, until October 2023 when Mayor Eric Adams introduced the 60-day rule.
What does the 60-day rule mean for asylum seekers?
The notices were given to families who had resided in the shelter system the longest. Asylum seekers are given a 60-day time frame in which they must find an alternative form of housing or they will have to reapply to be housed in a city shelter.
On a notice shared with Documented, the notice also says that a shelter case manager will be assigned to the family to help them look for options.
Social workers and case managers told Documented that some options for housing included helping qualifying individuals consider moving outside of the city through the Migrant Relocation Assistance Program (MRAP), which helped them with rental assistance for one year in certain counties.
Other options included going to the re-ticketing center, which provides free, one-way tickets to places outside NYC.
The city has set up an Office of Asylum Seeker Operations (OASO) to help address migrants’ needs, including relocation. It has also partnered with the Center for Discovery and SUNY Sullivan for migrants seeking to relocate throughout the state.
How NYC folded the right to shelter law
As Documented explained in our guide on how to get shelter, the Callahan Consent Decree, passed in 1981, established a right to shelter for homeless individuals in New York City. Anyone who does not have a place to stay can walk into an intake center and have a right to be placed in shelter the same night.
Under the homeless people’s rights, those residing at city shelters must receive a bed frame, a mattress, a locker and lock. Their bed must also be 3 feet apart from the other beds in the shelter. There must also be access to clean linens, basic toiletries, and laundry services among other things.
Also read: How To Access Emergency Shelter in NYC
The shelters were always meant to serve as a means of temporary housing, Jaquline Simone, then policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless, told Documented last year. However, there were no limits on how long a person could stay.
In 2022, amidst the arrival of new asylum seekers who needed shelters, there were already New Yorkers who had spent more than a decade living in the city shelters. Dozens of homeless individuals that Documented spoke with said that they had become homeless due to the pandemic, lack of employment opportunities, and natural disasters like Hurricane Ida. They also highlighted the cracks in a shelter system that seemed unsustainable in the long run.
As a large number of migrants started coming to New York, Mayor Adams welcomed them while blasting Texas Governor Greg Abbott for his “inhumane” and “un-American” way of treating the migrants.
“New York is a city of immigrants, and we will always welcome newcomers with open arms,” said Mayor Adams in August 2022. He issued “an emergency procurement declaration to rapidly procure additional shelter and services to serve these individuals and families”. This was to fulfill the “city’s legal and moral mandate to provide quality shelter to anyone experiencing homelessness.”
By August 12 of 2022, Documented reported that 4,000 asylum seekers had arrived in New York City with a percentage of those asking the city for shelter. By December, the number of asylum seekers increased to 26,000 — showing an increase of 550 percent. By summer of 2023, there were over 100,000 asylum seekers who had arrived in New York from April 2022 to August 2023, according to the NYC government website.
As more and more asylum seekers began arriving in New York City, due to a combination of being bussed or by their own means — during the summer of 2023, Mayor Adams announced a policy which required single adult migrants to reapply for shelter after 60 days.
This move aimed at making room for families with children. Later, the policy was changed so that single adults are only allowed 30 days to reapply, while families with children have 60 days to do so. These policies are designed to alleviate the crowded NYC shelter system by moving migrants out of the shelter system while accommodating more newly arrived.
NYC shelter evictions after 60 days
Because many asylum seekers are still waiting for their employment authorization documents (EAD) to arrive — combined with a housing market that has sent the rent prices through the roof — asylum seekers have opted to reapply for shelter. This could mean shelters located in boroughs far from where they have resided for the past year, which can also impact the school zone that their children have been attending to, as well as, the network of resources that many families have relied on.
Around 4,800 families with children were given the 60-day notices, according to City Hall. Families have told Documented that the instability caused by the notices have sent their lives into ambiguity.
On January 8th, a day before the first set of notices took effect, Brad Lander, New York City’s Comptroller, launched an investigation into the 60-day rule. The investigation will look into how the rule was implemented, process, and the services provided to help families obtain legal services.
It will also address the “potential school transfers of children from migrant families enrolled in our public school system as a consequence of the implementation of the 60-day rule.”