Migrant crisis: 70% of New Yorkers support ‘right-to-shelter’ mandate, poll finds

Protesters rally against the mayor's plan to evict migrants from shelters after 60 days.
Protesters rally against the mayor’s plan to evict migrants from shelters after 60 days.
Photo by Dean Moses

A recent poll found that 79% of New Yorkers still back the city’s “Right-to-Shelter” mandate that guarantees housing to anyone in the Big Apple — showing board support for the idea, despite the ongoing migrant crisis that has strained the city’s resources. 

The poll, first reported by Gothamist, found that 29% of people who answered the poll “somewhat support” the right-to-shelter-law, while another half said they “strongly support” the mandate. The survey was conducted by HarrisX, and used responses from around 1,000 adults. 

Dating back to 1981, the right-to-shelter law has served as a guarantee that anyone experiencing homelessness in New York City will have access to some form of shelter, though it has become a source of contentious debate since the massive influx of asylum seekers began nearly two years ago. 

Since then, over 168,000 migrants have arrived in the city, and Mayor Eric Adams has attempted to curtail the right-to-shelter law, saying it “was never intended to apply to the extraordinary circumstances our city faces today.” 

The situation has already led to the city spending billions of dollars, and will cost over $10 billion in additional funds from the city over the next two years, according to an analysis from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. 

As a result, Adams has proposed steep budget cuts to other services — including sanitation, education, libraries and public safety. 

But, despite all of that, the poll finds that nearly four out of every five New Yorkers still support the right-to-shelter mandate, which is one of the most expansive laws of its kind in any American city, and has helped reduce the number of homeless individuals living on the streets. 

Adams has argued that the mandate should not apply to new arrivals, and that using it that way only incentives more migrants to come to New York.

Currently, the mayor has instituted a plan that single adult migrants must move out of their shelters within 30 days, while migrant families have 60 days. They can, though, reapply for shelter after that time. 

The city is currently locked in a court battle with the Legal Aid Society, which is defending the right-to-shelter, about any further changes being made to the mandate. 

A spokesman for the mayor argued that the federal government needs to step up and further help with the financial situation, as well as to allow migrants to gain work authorization, which they lack as non-citizens. so they can support themselves.   

“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,” said the spokesperson, Charles Lutvak.