Nearly 80% of New Yorkers back NYC right to shelter, poll finds

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By Dan Sears

New York City residents overwhelmingly say they support the right-to-shelter mandate requiring the city to provide shelter to anyone in need, according to a new poll.

Of the roughly 1,000 adult residents surveyed recently by HarrisX, nearly 80% said they support the right to shelter. Half of the respondents said they “strongly support” the right to shelter, while 29% said they “somewhat support” the requirement.

The poll was commissioned by the New York Immigration Coalition and WIN, one of the largest shelter providers for families and children, which is headed by Christine Quinn, the former City Council Speaker.

Quinn said the poll shows New Yorkers across the political spectrum support the city spending money on new arrivals – even as Mayor Eric Adams has said the migrant crisis will “destroy” the city. Adams has instituted steep budget cuts to key services including schools, libraries and police to defray the costs of the migrants.

“There’s no question, as this poll shows clearly, that New Yorkers know this is a crisis,” Quinn said. “What we see here is that New Yorkers support the idea of helping asylum-seekers even when it costs money, notwithstanding the budget cuts the mayor is calling for.”

Advocates are likely to cite the findings of the poll, which are set to be released Tuesday, in their ongoing fight with city and state officials seeking to weaken the right to shelter. Established by several state Supreme court orders issued over four decades, the city’s right-to-shelter policy is the most sweeping protections for the homeless of any municipality in the country. It is widely credited with reducing street homelessness in New York City.

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Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have both argued that the right-to-shelter requirements should be rolled back to exempt the wave of new arrivals. Both officials have expressed concern that the mandate incentivizes migrants to come. However, the poll showed that 67% of those surveyed were more aligned with the view that migrants were fleeing “bad circumstances” and seeking a better life as opposed to coming to New York City because it provides a “generous benefits system.”

The city and state are currently negotiating in court with the Legal Aid Society, which is defending the policy.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for Adams, told Gothamist that the poll also shows New Yorkers want the federal government to help New York City by providing more migrant aid and expediting work permits for asylum-seekers. He cited the more than 168,000 migrants that have arrived in the city since the crisis began in April 2022. Around 70,000 are currently living in the shelter system, but city officials say that nearly 60% have moved out of shelters.

“But as Mayor Adams has repeatedly said, and New Yorkers clearly understand, the federal government needs to finish the job they started by allowing migrants to immediately work, provide meaningful financial support so cities can continue to manage this crisis, and create a coordinated entry system that ensures migrants are not arriving in one, or even just a handful of cities across the country,” Lutvak said in an emailed statement.

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A spokesperson for Hochul did not respond to a request for comment.

The poll comes out as Adams is ordering migrant families with children to move out of shelters after 60 days, forcing those without a place to stay to reapply for a new shelter. Advocates fear the move will disrupt migrant children’s education.

The Coalition for the Homeless expected around 40 families who’ve reached the 60 day deadline to head to the Roosevelt Hotel, a migrant intake center in Midtown, on Tuesday to be reassigned to a new shelter.

The poll adds to a pair of recent surveys finding broad disapproval of the mayor.

The HarrisX poll found that 54% of respondents strongly disapproved or somewhat disapproved of the job the mayor was doing to address the migrant crisis. President Joe Biden also got the blame, with 52% of respondents saying they disapproved of his handling of the crisis. Meanwhile, less than half, or 44%, disapproved of the governor’s performance.

Among those surveyed, 56% said they believed New York City is “on the wrong track.”

The poll was conducted in November and December, both online and over the phone, with residents across the five boroughs.

Of those surveyed, 56% described themselves as Democrats, 27% as Independents, and 14% as Republicans. A total of 85% polled said they were registered to vote in New York.

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The poll gauged views toward the right to shelter in multiple ways.

Pollsters said they tried to explain the right to shelter to respondents in plain terms. Of those surveyed, 85% said they either strongly or somewhat agreed that “every New Yorker in need should be entitled to a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep in until they get back on their feet,” while 73% said they either strongly or somewhat agreed that the city “should provide shelter to all those who need it.”

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