NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday that houses of worship will be taking in migrants to help ease the city's crunch.
The new, two-year partnership with New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS) 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.
At full scale, the program is expected to host nearly 1,000 asylum seekers, with potential for further expansion, the city said.
"No matter what faith you practice, caring for those in need is part of every spiritual tradition," said Adams in a statement. "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."
Places like the Elim International Fellowship in Bedford Stuyvesant have agreed to help provide places to stay for about a thousand migrants in small groups of 19.
"One of the things I think we are obligated to do, is to care for people," said Archbishop Eugene Blount of Elim International Fellowship. "And it doesn't matter where those people are from. Humanity needs help and we're here to help."
The mayor says this is a better environment for migrants than some of the other options.
"I would rather people be in houses of worship, where they are connected to people, community, care and compassion, than being in a congregate setting that is not connected to those things," he said.
The overnight centers will offer "a full suite of services, including dining and social areas, shower facilities, meals, storage space, and more," the mayor's office said.
The larger, daytime locations will offer similar services.
It is work Sonia Ali has already been doing at the Muslim Community Center in Brooklyn, which has already taken in dozens of migrants over the last several months.
A night at a house of worship will cost the city about $125 a day, much less than a stay at a hotel.
And because these locations will house smaller groups, Adams says the more they can expand into houses of worship, the better.
The mayor said despite strategies like this, the current situation is not sustainable.
"I won't want anybody to believe this is sustainable because it is not," he said. "We need work permits and a decompression strategy, we need real immigration reform."
He once again emphasized the need for federal help - and the need for pro bono lawyers who can help migrants with paperwork to file for asylum and work permits.
On Sunday, the mayor made an unannounced visit to the Roosevelt Hotel, during which he met with migrants and toured the facility.
The Roosevelt Hotel has been serving as a welcome center and shelter for some migrants families.
The city continues to struggle to find more places to house migrants long term. It's vetted more than 500 possible locations to date.
That's why in the interim, migrants are being housed at respite centers. The city has billed these as waiting rooms, places for them to stay until space opens up at a long-term shelter.
The former Lincoln Correctional Facility in Harlem is the city's newest respite center. Eyewitness News saw the first group of men move into the upgraded temporary shelter last Thursday.
It appears the city's eighth respite location will be at an unused hangar at JFK, Governor Kathy Hochul said the city is waiting for the green light by the FAA.
Last week, the city brought in cots, bathrooms, and shower trailers to the hangar. It will be able to hold as many as a thousand people, making it likely the largest respite center yet.
Port Authority says they are making "progress" on the plans to use the building on a short-term basis and "everyone is working to finalize as soon as possible."
That came after FAA, which has to sign off on the arrangement, indicated the facility has adequate security and safety plans in place.
According to the city, 2,200 asylum seekers arrived at city shelters last week alone.
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