Light Wave

U.S. News

Asylum Seekers Sleep on NYC Sidewalks As Shelters Hit Capacity

By Jake Beardslee · August 2, 2023

In brief…

  • New York City has seen an influx of some 95,000 migrants and asylum seekers since 2022, overwhelming its shelter system.
  • Migrants sleep on sidewalks outside Manhattan's landmark Roosevelt Hotel for days waiting for shelter.
  • Mayor Adams says NYC lacks the resources to handle the overwhelming demand
  • Advocates accuse Adams of intentionally creating poor conditions.
Migrants and asylum seekers are now filling New York City sidewalks as shelters reach their limits.  Adjoajo/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

New York City has seen a dramatic increase in migrants arriving in recent months, leaving officials scrambling to provide housing and services. Outside the historic Roosevelt Hotel-turned-shelter in midtown Manhattan, migrants like Jose, a former pharmacist from Venezuela, have been sleeping on the sidewalk for days waiting to get a bed.

According to the mayor’s office, more than 95,000 migrants and asylum seekers have entered New York City’s intake process for housing and services since spring 2022.

Mayor Eric Adams said the city’s resources are stretched thin and warned “it’s downhill from here.” According to Adams, “There is no more room.”

Many of the new arrivals said news of New York City’s efforts to house migrants traveled fast to their native countries. Miguel, who fled Cuba after an 18-day journey, arriving in New York City after a friend bought him a plane ticket, told NBC News, “The situation was getting worse and worse,” referring to the circumstances he left in the Caribbean.

Advocates accuse Mayor Adams of intentionally creating poor living conditions for the migrants in order to send them the message that any help they get from the city will be grudging and limited.

“What we’ve been experiencing for several months now since they opened up the respite sites is inhumane treatment,” Power Malu from the Artists Athletes Activists organization told NBC.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom defended the city’s efforts at a press conference, saying “I’ve been so proud of the fact that we’ve been able to take care of over 100,000 people.” She then called on the federal government to provide more assistance.

Meanwhile, inside the sprawling Roosevelt Hotel, which has converted to house process new arrivals, babies slept in rows of playpens. Families and children have been prioritized for shelter. Miguel said that while the wait is daunting and the process remains a challenge, “I can’t give up” after making it this far.