New York City Survey: Unsheltered Migrants Increased Homeless Population by 25%

Yves here. There’s a lot of hand-wringing, as well as legitimate debate, over how bad the migrant crisis is and what to do about it. To be more specific, “migrant crisis” means the stresses on major US cities and the new migrants themselves by virtue of the Biden Administration implementing a series of changes last year that had the effect of considerably increasing the number who entered at the southern border…..without any planning as to how to manage the influx.

This post provides a rare bit of information, which is an estimate by New York City of the migrants who are, as one of Jimmy Dore’s co-hosts put it, “sky roofed”. As you’ll see, this is based on a survey, which is subject to doubts about how complete it is, just like the ongoing surveys of the size of the New York City population that serve as a basis for comparison. Nevertheless, on a first pass, this is not pretty.

And that’s before getting to the question of what their lives will be like even when they find shelter and hopefully paid work. A friend who only recently gave up the fast track coastal life visited some friend in Florida. The sense of entitlement was jarring. They went to a moderately fancy restaurant. The waitstaff was all immigrants…but no Hispanics, all well-spoken, very good looking Eastern Europeans. My friend was very much bothered by the apparent need for the servants (which is what restaurant staff is) not simply be good at their job but also to embody a particular image.

Her hosts fawned over their waiter in a faux-familiar manner that would be inappropriate even if he was a full time employee. One reason may have been that they didn’t tip well (my friend topped up their share to something reasonable). But he inferred this behavior was driven by something else, perhaps the need to seem more egalitarian than they were.

By Gwynne Hogan. Originally published at THE CITY

Migrants sleep in makeshift shelters overnight outside the St. Brigid reticketing site in the East Village, Dec. 11, 2023. Credit: Gwynne Hogan/THE CITY

Nearly a thousand migrants waiting for a new shelter cot spent a recent night on the streets or in trains, according to an internal poll conducted by city officials and obtained by THE CITY.

The “St. Brigid Guest Overnight Stay” survey asked a group of migrants in mid-January where they’d spent the night. The results, according to materials reviewed by THE CITY, extrapolated that 968 spent the night outside or on the train.

St. Brigid is the East Village site where migrant adults without children must report to get a ticket elsewhere, before applying for a new shelter stay. The survey polled 377 of those adults, a group the city deemed to be “representative of the entire guest waitlist,” which at the time was 3,874 people who had been evicted from city shelters and were seeking a new placement.

City Hall this week credited a recent drop in the number of migrants in city shelters, from 69,000 in early January to 65,600 in mid-February, to the shelter eviction policies that were introduced beginning in October.

But that drop does not appear to account for the nearly four thousand people who were waiting for a shelter placement.

Last fall the city began limiting adult shelter stays to 30 days, while beginning to dole out 60-day eviction notices to some migrant families with children. Families with children are now sent back to the Roosevelt Hotel for another shelter placement when their time runs out.

For adults whose 30 days in shelter has run out, the wait for a new shelter placement can last more than a week, during which time people lining up outside the East Village site have limited access to showers, food, and even bathrooms. Once the site closes in the evening, 25% of respondents reported that they’d slept outside or on the trains, while 4% said a family member or friend took them in.

About 67% of those surveyed said they had spent the night in a “shelter,” with many ending up at the city’s five overnight waiting rooms where people can rest on the ground or in chairs without cots.

A census of New York City’s unsheltered population, conducted in January of 2023, counted 4,042 people living on city streets and subways. While the results of this year’s count have yet to be released, the 968 migrants the city estimates slept outside would represent nearly a 25% increase in that population.

Amaris Cockfield, a spokesperson for Mayor Adams, declined to comment on the specifics of the survey.

“First and foremost, all guests at St. Brigid are offered the option to be reticketed to the destination of their choice. Those that want to wait for placement here in New York City are referred to a location where they can wait indoors and are not forced to wait outside,” she said. “Our agency partners continue to work to assess and gain a deeper understanding of migrants’ needs.”

As THE CITY reported earlier this week, the Adams administration is working to shut down the overnight sites where people can wait inside by the end of February.

‘It’s Exhausting’

Amadou Dia, 36 from Mauritania, who spoke to THE CITY in mid-January while he was waiting for a bed, said he was among those who’d turned to the city’s subways after getting turned away from an overnight waiting room.

“They told me to go to the Bronx, but there they told me it was full, so I had nowhere to go. I didn’t have a choice, I had to go to the subway,” he said in French. “It’s exhausting.”

THE CITY has previously reported that more migrants have been sleeping on the streets, in subways and in shelters set up by outside groups, despite the winter weather, as it’s become more and more difficult to secure a city shelter bed.

The backlog of people waiting for shelter started ballooning in late December, rendering the city’s long standing “right to shelter” protections enshrined in a 1981 consent decree, virtually meaningless for thousands of adult migrants.

Since then, more than 20,000 adults have gotten in line at St. Brigid’s, according to signs posted at the site, to wait for another 30-day stint in a migrant shelter.

Homeless rights advocates have warned restricting access to city shelters would lead to a surge in street homelessness. That can be costly for the city in other ways, like the cost of emergency room visits, which occur when people are exposed to the elements or other unsafe situations outdoors.

Asked about a potential surge in street homelessness in mid-January, around when the survey was conducted, Mayor Eric Adams said that New York City has done more than its fair share to support migrants arriving from the southern border.

“I’ve said this a couple of months ago, the visualization of this crisis is going to become aware for New Yorkers. We stated we were out of room,” he said. “And the cost of doing this…it was a weight we could not continue to carry.”

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  1. antidlc

    Texas has spent over $148 million busing migrants to other parts of the country

    In April 2022, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced his state was going to start transporting to other states migrants who had been released from federal custody. He said he was doing it to prevent the state from shouldering “the burdens imposed by open-border advocates in other parts of the country.”

    Nearly two years later, Texas has transported over 102,000 migrants to New York, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

    But the initiative has also come with a hefty price tag. Records obtained by The Texas Newsroom under the Texas Public Information Act show that as of Jan. 24, the state has spent over $148 million to bus migrants to predominantly Democratic cities. The price tag grows every day.

    1. i just don't like the gravy

      So about $1,450 per bussed migrant? Even when waging domestic war Americans love to overpay

    2. Lakisha

      So? Subtrack the busfares from what it would have cost the taxpayers had they stuck around in Texas.

      Yves’ “that’s before getting to the question of what their lives will be like even when they find shelter and hopefully paid work,” triggers another question:

      What will American workers lives be like when they have to compete with the cheap labor imports? Migrants will profit from affirmative action laws and get cash payments etc. Who will hire American black people when they can hire a grateful, desperate black migrant who has none of the grievences of many born in the USA?

      The battle lines are being drawn. Witness the success of the Hodgetwins on Youtube. (Two young American black veterans who rail against immigrants and could be honorary members of the KKK.)

    3. French75

      $1500/head is cheap compared to the cost of >$10,000/head in housing and services for a year. As far as I’m aware the destinations are all “sanctuary cities” that try to encourage migrants to come, and thus have stepped up to share the burden. How is this not a win/win?

        1. French75

          Empty rhetoric. They’re being sent to ostensibly welcoming cities. I’d hardly describe that as unwanted. And I’d hardly describe a free inter-city bus ticket as anything remotely like inhuman treatment.

  2. Rip Van Winkle

    The silver lining is this: if you can make it there you can make it anywhere. It only took the Mets 7 years.

  3. JonnyJames

    In addition to being used as a quadrennial election-year political mobilization tool, the “migrants” expose deep-seated issues in the US in general: lack of housing and housing crisis, rising municipal debt and proportion of revenue paid out in debt service, lack of public resources, and destructive US foreign policy – including financial/economic as well as military action.

    The Feds are responsible: they should step up and assist the municipalities with immigrants and the rising houseless population in general. The Feds should also stop the debt entrapment of the Global South, stop pushing neoliberal economic policy, stop illegal siege warfare (euphemistically called sanctions), stop funding Genocide, stop meddling in Ukraine, stop supporting death squads and drugs cartels, stop bombing entire countries into the Stone Age etc.

    Some apologists and one-trick pony observers like to blame it all on climate change. Xenophobes and racists blame the victims: millions of swarthy-skinned “foreigners” are “invading” in “swarms” looking to rape, pillage and murder. The migrants are “the other”: they are subhuman, not like us God-fearing, virtuous, law-abiding white euro-Americans who came to the continent earlier. (of course immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born US folk)

    The raw number of immigrants is up sharply, however as a proportion of the US population, immigrant levels are about the same as they were 100 years ago.

    Few ask the underlying question: Why are people so desperate that they will risk their lives, leave their homeland and family to go to another country?

    1. JBird4049

      Good grief. Today’s economy is arguably collapsing. It is certainly not working for most Americans with many going hungry, and over a million a year going homeless, and that million is not including the recent wave. I can reference the over 150,000 homeless Californians, and I can also very easily and reasonable argue that the numbers given for the homeless are an undercount, a serious undercount. Also, if you sleep on the floor or a different couch each week as many do, you are counted housed.

      Lack of medical care.
      Jobs that pay enough to just live on (Or unions)

      We are talking tens of millions of Americans with many being families and their children; allowing millions of, bluntly speaking, foreigners or immigrants, in while tens of millions of Americans go without seems problematic to me. Maybe, I should say stupidly foolish.

      Our society is ignoring to death Americans, and then finding ways to vilify them for daring to protest their increasing immiseration and suffering when the millions of people who come here due to the policies of our oligarchic elites; their wholly owned governmental nomenklatura and apparatchiks, as well the slavishly obedient intelligentsia and glitterati who are assisting them in this.

      Can anyone deny that this is a good way to create not nationalism, but xenophobia and jingoism?
      Anyone at all? Or that this will also force people to find anyone who says that they will help them to fill their stomachs and to put a roof over their heads? If people do not like Joe Biden or Donald Trump, they will really not like whomever are chosen to take their places in the next few elections, which means wangsting over those immigrants, while ignoring the suffering or even complaining about the poor attitude of the hundreds of millions of Americans who live here is good way to get those immigrants abused, deported, or just murdered. When the inevitable civil unrest occurs, which most people probably agree is going to happen, who is most likely to suffer the most? Desperate people commit desperate, often awful, acts. And no, this is not hyperbole, it is American history. It is world history.

      Honestly, and very bluntly, anyone who cannot see where this is all going is mistaken, ignorant or insane, which is forgivable, or willfully blind or evil, which is not.

    2. David in Friday Harbor

      I do think that we must keep repeating the statistic that the world population has exploded from 2.5 billion when I was born in the mid-1950’s to 8 billion today. Climate change, labor arbitrage, insecurity of food and housing, and migration are the direct result of our over-abundance of human beings. Sadly, xenophobia and jingoism are the inevitable byproduct.

      Callous national elites everywhere simply ignore all of this suffering except as political campaign fodder to gin-up the masses. They seem to believe that they can insulate themselves from the chaos via militarized policing, mass incarceration, and “reticketing.” It’s shameful.

    1. French75

      This isnt even counter to the narrative. The numbers from the article:

      Trump: 1.6M encounters, 47% deported, ~800K released in US
      Biden: 5M encouters, 51% deported, ~2.5M released into the US

      No meaningful difference in rates, but if the encounters are 4x higher then both deports and imports are similarly increased.

      And the number that matters here is the number of new human beings now relying on existing infrastructure, which over the past 4 years amount to the population of Arizona.

      This has the makings of a humanitarian crisis.

      1. JonnyJames

        Humanitarian crisis? It is a manufactured crisis, but not nearly on the scale of Palestine, Sudan, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, parts of Syria, Iraq etc. All consequences of US foreign policy. The Fed gov does not care about US citizens, let alone victims of US policy.

  4. kriptid

    What should also be noted here is how it is nearly impossible to get an apartment right now in NYC, where, as I recall, vacancies are at the lowest rate in recent history.

    Unless your annual salary is 40x the cost of monthly rent, most landlords will not even bother to show you the apartment. With median costs for a studio apartment hovering at around $3k/mo, the average person cannot sign a lease themselves unless they make more than $100k/yr. I currently live in a relatively affordable apartment in Queens, and my rent for a studio is $2,200/mo. In order I get it, I had to show bank statements for one year, have a credit check, get a cosigner because I didn’t make 40x. The landlords told me that the apartment was only on the market for 3 days and they had half a dozen applicants, with half of those wanting to take it sight unseen.

    The public housing system has been throughly gamed. I know of an Ecuadorian immigrant who got a rent controlled apartment years ago, and has since moved to Florida. Rather than giving up the apartment, she now rents it out to migrants and clears a cool $2k/mo. She makes sure that none of them receive any mail or packages there for fear that she will be found out and lose the apartment.

    The old industrial waterfront near where I live in Astoria is being demolished and new apartment buildings are going up. Rents in those places are starting at $4k/mo. They are across the street from industrial yards and rowhouses. Only a matter of time before those are also knocked down and replaced by unaffordable housing.

    This city is earing itself alive and no one seems to care.

    1. JonnyJames

      The problems you mention in NYC, is a problem nationwide, and especially in California.

      Housing is a commodity to be hoarded, monopolized and rationed for maximum extortion effect, just like health care, electricity, education, banking, and other utilities that should be public utilities.

      Can’t afford the health extortion? Die prematurely. Can’t afford the obscene rents and mortgages? Die homeless. Can’t afford the electricity/nat gas? Freeze in the dark. That’s what we call “freedom and democracy”.

    2. Carolinian

      I’ve lived in NY and in an East Village apt that was less than deluxe but at least it did have heat. If you are homeless it seems to me that NYC in winter is the last place you would want to be. There were those stories some years back about homeless living in abandoned railway tunnels so it isn’t a new problem either.

      Seems to me that if NY is offering the homeless tickets to elsewhere they should take them. I didn’t last long there myself. It’s a great or at least glamorous place if you are wealthy. The days of the welcome mat to starving artists are long gone.

      And in an internet age the world has changed. Do we really need to all cram into already overcrowded cities? I love the fact that I can drive a few miles and be in a forest.

    3. Pat

      The low vacancy rate is not really accurate. Much of it is self reporting and is partly at keeping rents ridiculously high, the rest…well, The real estate industry is trying to get rent restrictions in NYC rescinded, most of which are part of the rent stabilization laws. If the vacancy rate gets to a certain point and stays there rent stabilization can be rescinded. There are multiple vacancies in my rent stabilized 60 apartment building right now. One apartment in my building has been vacant for over two years. (The post person has marked the mail box vacant so they know to leave it empty and no longer have to empty out the junk mail.)

      This isn’t to say that there is enough affordable rental stock, there isn’t. And you gotta remember that what the city itself considers affordable rent would be more than two weeks salary at minimum wage for a studio. Office space and high end housing projects have been tearing down stock for decades. But the stats are being manipulated.

  5. spud

    remember, free trade drives migration. these are desperate people that free trade has destroyed their ability to make a living, if they stayed in the country that free trade is destroying, they would starve to death.

    How US ‘Free Trade’ Policies Created the Central American Migration Crisis

    To strengthen corporate dominance, Washington steadily undermined democracy, encouraged exploitation and nourished anti-union violence in the south.
    Michelle Chen

    “NAFTA’s critics did not doubt that it would stimulate more trade; that was, after all, its function. Rather, they predicted that any benefits would go largely to the rich while the middle class and the poor would pay the costs, and that the promised growth would not materialize. They were right. NAFTA is not the cause of all Mexico’s economic troubles, but it has clearly made them worse. Since NAFTA’s inception in 1994 — indeed, for the 20 years of neoliberal “reform” — the Mexican middle class has shrunk and the number of poor has expanded. Economic growth has been below the old corporatist economy’s performance and substantially less than what is needed to generate jobs for Mexico’s growing labor force. During his 2000 campaign, Mexican President Vicente Fox promised that under his six-year term the country would grow 7 percent per year. Two and a half years after his inauguration, growth has averaged less than 1 percent.

    So the northward migration continues. Between the U.S. censuses of 1990 and 2000, the number of Mexican-born residents in the United States increased by more than 80 percent. Border-crossings diminished temporarily after September 11, but they are now as great as ever. Some half-million Mexicans come to the United States every year; roughly 60 percent of them are undocumented. The massive investments in both border guards and detection equipment have not diminished the migrant flow; they have just made it more dangerous. In the past five years, more than 1,600 Mexican migrants have died on the journey to the north, including 19 people who were found asphyxiated in a truck near Houston in May. Still, as a neighbor of one of the 19 who left told The Washington Post, “If you’re going to improve your life, you have to go to the United States.” “

  6. Alan Roxdale

    I can only assume that the increase in migration being exprienced in western states is the revenge of capital for labour’s post-covid gains, and the importing of mass desperation being part of the shock-doctrine strategy to drive wages back down.

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