Migrant families with children will be forced to leave their New York City shelters starting tomorrow, ushering a major policy shift under the Adams’ administration limiting how long families — and their kids — can shelter in one place.
The first round of moves are expected for 40 families at The Row hotel in Midtown on Tuesday, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. Families will have to pack up, check out of their room and either find housing elsewhere or reapply for housing at The Roosevelt Hotel, the city’s main intake center.
Some elected officials, housing and immigrant advocates and City Council members have decried the measure and are planning a protest at 11 a.m. Monday at Foley Square. They worry the policy will lead to families waiting in long lines outside the Roosevelt as they wait for a new shelter and harm children who might have to relocate to another borough and change schools.
“I can’t imagine a scenario where there won’t be a significant disruption to children’s education,” said Jennifer Pringle, project director for Advocates for Children. “It just is ridiculous that families are going to be moved mid year when school, for so many families, is a primary source of support and stability.”
Here’s what we know so far:
The city granted extensions once already
The city began issuing 60-day notices to migrant families with children last fall, after warning there was no more room to house new migrants who continue arriving every week. Families with kids were initially asked to leave right after Christmas but the city later extended the deadline by two weeks, avoiding displacing families in the middle of the holidays and while children were on winter break.
Some migrant families initially told to leave in December said they were given new notices with new dates on them. A copy reviewed by Gothamist showed the letters contained no information directing families to reapply for shelter at the Roosevelt or explaining that homeless students have the right to stay in their school even if they move shelters.
The 60-day policy is the latest effort by Mayor Eric Adams as his administration grapples with the growing 66,000 migrants living in shelter — a majority of whom are families with children.
What do families with kids have to do?
Families with expiring 60-day notices will have turn in their hotel keys and check out by mid-morning. If they need to reapply for shelter, they don’t need to have their kids present at The Roosevelt intake center and can send them to school, said Will Watts, deputy executive director for advocacy at Coalition for the Homeless.
Advocates say they expect many families will pull their children out of school tomorrow to keep everyone together as it’s unclear how long it could take to get a new shelter placement, which could interfere with school dismissal time.
Pringle said she expects a large number of absences at the schools once the moves begin.
“Having a policy saying you don’t need to bring your kids is fairly meaningless unless there’s policies in place that give some degree of security to parents that they’ll be able to reconnect with their kids,” she said. “They don’t know how long it’s going to take to process the application or where they’re going to be sent afterwards.”
Migrant students are entitled to stay in their schools
Under federal rules, homeless children are entitled to remain in their school even if they move to another shelter.
City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak said many students transfer schools in the city and “as always, we will continue to support all students and their families and ensure there is no gap in services as they transition to a new school community.” She reiterated the need for the federal government to step in and help manage the migrant crisis.
The Coalition for the Homeless said the city will set aside some hotel rooms in Manhattan to place families in order to keep them near the schools their youngest child attends. For now the 60-day notices only apply to shelters not operated by the Department of Homeless Services, which currently houses a majority of migrant families.
What can New Yorkers expect?
Adult migrants are already restricted to shelter stays of 30 days. That resulted in hundreds of migrants waiting hours up to several days in the cold outside a former Catholic school waiting for a new bed placement. Advocates worry families with children will face the same fate.
“The idea that we could, as New York City, be so immoral as to say there is a child in front of me right now who needs help and I am going to put them out on the street in the winter in January, knowing that they have nowhere to go and nothing to eat,” said Liza Schwartzwald, director of economic justice and family empowerment at the New York Immigration Coalition. “That to me is just a staggering injustice.”
Some local elected leaders, including Councilmember Shahana Hanif, who chairs the immigration committee, are calling on Adams to reverse course.
“There’s no way to justify what this administration is doing, how this mayor is utilizing his capacity to further harm people who need our compassion,” she said.
What will happen in the coming weeks?
City Hall said about 4,800 notices have been issued so far. The latest city data shows shelters are housing 51,000 individuals that comprise families with children. Of the 174 facilities that only house families with children, 24 are non-DHS locations, data show.
The 60-day notices will expire on a rolling basis with notices coming due in the coming weeks at different Midtown hotels such as The Watson and The Stewart.
“They’ve endured quite enough already to be disrupted in this way, especially with young kids involved. It just seems cruel,” Watts said.