NEW YORK — As buses arrive daily, the city is struggling to find housing for asylum seekers.
According to the mayor’s office, 70,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the last year.
Mayor Eric Adams is asking a judge to modify the long-standing right-to-shelter policy. The 4-decades-old ruling mandates the city provide shelter to anyone who requests it.
Right now, there are temporary shelters for asylum seekers, until they can be placed in a hotel. But at one site, local immigration advocates say there’s nowhere for them to shower.
CBS2 asked the city what’s being done about it.
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Wednesday marked the fifth day Ahmed Usman says he has been staying at a former Touro College building on 31st Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. Last week, the city set up what are supposed to be temporary overflow respite sites like that one. Usman said he’s sleeping in a room with 10 cots for men and women.
Usman, who immigrated from Ghana, said there are no showers, it has been difficult to bathe, and sometimes it smells inside.
Usman said he recently traveled to a friend’s home in the Bronx to shower, but immigration advocate Power Malu said others are going as long as seven days with no access to a shower.
“We’re getting so many complaints from people inside saying they have to use the bathroom and basically just fill it up with bottles of water and just like do quick impromptu showers,” Malu said. “They already traveled dangerous conditions. They traveled the jungles. Yeah, they lasted days without showering. You’re not welcoming people with dignity.”
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A spokesperson for the mayor said, in part, “We are working to get people access to showers, but these are basically a temporary waiting room until we can find placements for asylum seekers. Our goal is to not use these sites, but, like we’ve said, we continue to receive hundreds of migrants every day even though we are out of space.”
“Initially, City Hall said people would be going to these places just as they arrived and maybe wait a couple hours until an intake office was ready to process them. It’s just not safe or healthy,” said Josh Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society.
One man who arrived from Haiti showed CBS2 a flier that in Spanish says people staying at the former Touro site can register to use a shower at the Stewart Hotel an avenue away.
He said in Spanish, “It’s difficult,” adding he should have had everything, but he feels the city is doing an enormous favor and he hopes it gets better soon.