Offered tickets to depart NYC when forced to leave shelters, only 2% of adult migrants accept

Fewer than 30 adult migrants per day are typically accepting a city-offered bus or plane ticket out of New York City, and hundreds more are ending up with no shelter bed to sleep in for the night, newly released data shows.

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has said its rule restricting shelter stays for adult migrants to 30 days is alleviating a strained shelter system, making room for newer arrivals and helping slash projected migrant spending.

But data obtained by Gothamist through a Freedom of Information Law request shows that on average, just 2% of adult migrants maxing out their shelter limits each day are leaving the city. Meanwhile, more than 80% are turned away because no shelter beds are available, and are sent to waiting rooms in other parts of the city to try again the next day. Many migrants have said they’re choosing to sleep on the street, the subway or in parks instead.

Adams’ policies are under growing scrutiny by city councilmembers who recently called his shelter limit notices “inhumane” and are seeking to ban any restrictions on homeless shelter stays.

“The best way to serve the population who are being directed to reticketing to St. Brigid’s [in the East Village] is to provide them with real case management so they can get what they need to move on,” said Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney with the nonprofit Legal Aid Society. “Using an arbitrary deadline for people to have to leave shelter is disruptive and counterproductive.”

He said putting migrants on a waitlist and offering them a chair in a waiting room is still a violation of the city’s decades-old right-to-shelter law that guarantees a shelter bed to anyone who asks for one.

The city began issuing 30-day notices to adult migrants across all city-funded shelters last September, and later redirected those with nowhere to live to the so-called reticketing site at St. Brigid’s, a former Catholic School next to Tompkins Square Park. Lines there typically wrap around the block, and migrants have waited days in freezing temperatures for shelter placements.

On average, about 1,600 migrants go to St. Brigid’s every day but only 15% are able to secure a cot for the night, according to data provided by the city’s emergency management agency for mid-December to March. Last week, the number of migrants waiting outside the reticketing site reached a peak of 2,800, the data shows.

City officials said they’ve spent $7.6 million to “reticket” about 28,500 migrants, or buy them bus or plane tickets to other cities or states. But it’s unclear how much of that was spent on adult migrants at St. Brigid, where data shows more than 2,200 have accepted rides elsewhere since Dec. 17.

“We’re laser-focused on using intensive case management, reticketing, and legal support to help more people move out of shelter as they desire more self-sufficient lives,” Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in a statement. “While we are grateful for the assistance we have received thus far from our federal partners, we need more.”

Mamelak said more than 60% of migrants in the city’s care, or about 113,000, have left the shelter system and “taken the next steps in their journeys.”

Molly Schaeffer, interim director of the city’s Office of Asylum Seeker Operations, told city councilmembers earlier this month that most reticketing is taking place at the Roosevelt Hotel, the city’s main intake center where newly arrived migrants initially request shelter. She said many arriving migrants ask for tickets back to Texas or other states where they may have family or friends.

Schaeffer added that only a quarter of adult migrants with expiring 30-day notices reapply for shelter. The city had issued more than 55,000 30-day notices to adult migrants up to that point, she said

The top reticketing destinations include other parts of New York as well as Illinois, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to Mamelak. The city’s policy of sending homeless New Yorkers to other states predates the Adams administration, originating in 2009, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid for one-way tickets for homeless people to head south or to the Caribbean.

The data reviewed by Gothamist shows that between 800 and 2,800 migrants go to St. Brigid’s daily, though many are repeat visitors who didn’t get a shelter placement the day before. At most, a quarter of those lining up have received shelter, but on some days just 3% got a bed.

“There is no compassion, care or respect in throwing people out on the street that have no place to go,” Deputy City Council Speaker Diana Ayala said during a Council hearing earlier this month.

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