Gov. Kathy Hochul says New York's right to shelter law being misinterpreted amid migrant crisis

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Thursday, October 12, 2023
Gov. Hochul says New York's right to shelter law being misinterpreted
Gov. Kathy Hochul formally threw her support behind Mayor Eric Adams and his attempt to roll back the city's Right to Shelter rule. Anthony Carlo has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Gov. Kathy Hochul formally threw her support behind Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday and his attempt to roll back the city's right to shelter rule.

The decades-old mandate requires the city to house anyone who asks. Adams has been fighting to amend it for months amid the migrant crisis.

Hochul said the "interpretation" that the city's decades-old right to shelter agreement applies to asylum seekers no longer makes sense to "rational people."

"This interpretation that has been promulgated for the last year and a half, it doesn't hold up any longer, that interpretation, that does not mean my commitment to helping the homeless on the streets, especially those with mental health, my commitment remains steadfast," Hochul said. "Let's deal with the unprecedented scale of the human crisis which has truly stretched the resources of the city to manage the implementation as it has been interpreted. Thats what I keep getting at, it doesn't have to be interpreted this way."

Homeless advocates say if the city gets its way, homeless New Yorkers will also be denied shelter - as well as migrants.

The New York Shelter for All in Need Equally, or NY SANE Coalition, released and signed five principles for the humane treatment of homeless and migrant New Yorkers.

The coalition leaders also signed a letter to Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul calling on them to uphold the right to shelter.

Among the demands are that families and children in need of shelter must be provided with safe placements and that a statewide decompression plan is implemented using the full authority and resources of the governor's office to deal with asylum seekers and new arrivals.

They are also demanding that families with children in need of shelter always be provided with safe placements.

This follows the Adams' administration's formal ask of a judge to suspend the right to shelter if a state of emergency remains in effect and the number of single adults seeking shelter is at least 50% higher than it was in a two-year period before the city called its state of emergency last October.

The city and state are scrambling but homeless advocates say this could effectively end the right to shelter for thousands of New Yorkers, including working poor people who rely on the shelter and people who rely on disability benefits.

"It is incredibly heartless to say that we are going to turn our backs on someone who may need a bed, and regardless if you have been here for 50 years or 50 days, you deserve the care if you seek it," said Murad Awawdeh with New York Immigration Coalition.

City and state leaders say the mandate needs to be modified, not thrown out.

Homeless advocates acknowledge this is a complicated situation but they are adamant that changing the right to shelter is not a solution and are instead calling for investments in permanent housing and other measures that don't result in people out on the streets and in encampments.

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