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Mayor Adams, NYC Faith Leaders Launch Faith-Based Shelter Program for Houses of Worship to Support Asylum Seeker Response

June 5, 2023

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With Over 46,000 Asylum Seekers Currently in City’s Care, New Program Allows Houses of Worship to Host 19 Asylum Seekers Each Overnight

Up to 50 Houses of Worship Set to Participate in First Cohort

NEW YORK – As New York City continues to care for more than 46,000 asylum seekers, New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced the creation of a faith-based shelter program — a new, two-year partnership with New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS) that will allow up to 50 houses of worship or faith-based spaces to offer overnight shelter for up to 19 single adult men at each location. To provide programming and support for asylum seekers during the day — while these faith-based spaces continue to offer their normal activities — the city will also open five daytime centers. Faith-based partnerships have played a critical role in the city’s response to the asylum seeker humanitarian crisis, and, at full scale, this program will host nearly 1,000 asylum seekers, with potential for further expansion.

“No matter what faith you practice, caring for those in need is part of every spiritual tradition,” said Mayor Adams. “As we continue to tackle this humanitarian crisis, I’m proud that through this new partnership with New York Disaster Interfaith Services, New York City’s faith community will be able to provide shelter to asylum seekers in need at houses of worship throughout the five boroughs. Not only will this increase the space we have by nearly 1,000 beds, but it will also connect asylum seekers with local communities. New York City continues to do all that we can to address this crisis, but we need additional assistance from other partners.”

"The city’s response to the asylum seeker crisis has not only required a whole-of-government effort, but has also taken a citywide effort that includes nonprofits, community organizations, volunteers, and the faith community," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. "Today’s announcement with houses of worship, NYDIS, and the city demonstrates the strength of this response to meet the ongoing need. Thank you to NYDIS and to the faith community for coming together with us in this work to support people seeking asylum."

“Our city has witnessed an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers coming to New York City since last spring,” said Pastor Gil Monrose, executive director, Mayor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships. “They are escaping violence, oppression, poverty, and, like all of us, want to live and support their families in peace. New York City is the city of immigrants, as attested by the words of Emma Lazarus engraved on the inner pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ I am really grateful that faith leaders are opening their doors to asylum seekers — providing their space as well as the hands of the community to care for them. New York is truly a city of faith.”

“We are asking New York City’s faith communities to join us in our mission to open your sacred spaces into havens of safety for asylum seekers, our new neighbors in need of our hospitality,” said Peter B. Gudaitis, M.Div., executive director and CEO, NYDIS. “Since 9/11, when called upon, New York Disaster Interfaith Services has partnered with the city to provide dignity, hope, and the disaster human services needed in times of crisis. We thank Mayor Adams for his shared vision and for providing NYDIS with the resources to give our city’s congregations the opportunity to meet a critical basic human need for food, shelter, and clothing, while covering their operating costs. We are reminded that, across all faith traditions, hospitality to the stranger is both a divine calling and a sacred obligation.”

The faith-based shelter program delivers on the faith initiatives outlined in “The Road Forward: A Blueprint to Address New York City’s Response to the Asylum Seeker Crisis,” and will not only expand the city’s ability to provide temporary shelter, but also help integrate asylum seekers into local communities. The overnight centers will offer a full suite of services, including dining and social areas, shower facilities, meals, storage space, and more. The larger, daytime locations will also offer a full range of services — including meals and snacks, shower facilities, social areas, and additional services — to meet the needs of asylum seekers during the day.

Today’s announcement comes as New York City has, largely on its own, supported over 72,000 asylum seekers since last spring, with more than 46,000 still in the city’s care. The city has already spent more than $1.2 billion on the crisis this fiscal year alone and is projected to spend more than $4.3 billion by the end of June 2024, yet the federal government has only allocated New York City less than $40 million in funding — enough to pay for only five days of asylum seeker costs, at current rates of spending. Mayor Adams has repeatedly called on the federal government to provide multiple forms of support, including expedited work authorization for asylum seekers, a nationwide decompression strategy, increased funding to manage the crisis, and meaningful immigration reform.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Adams was joined by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, other elected officials, labor and business leaders, and asylum seekers to once again call for that expedited work authorization, which would allow asylum seekers to start providing for themselves and lessen the burden on New York City’s overtaxed shelter and social services systems.

“In this defining moment for our city, when our asylum-seeking brothers and sisters from around the world look to New York City for refuge, all of us have a part to play in welcoming them with open arms. That includes our expansive network of faith-based organizations, which are often the first to step up in times of crisis,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “Thank you to all our participating faith-based organizations for your community-minded service to our newest New Yorkers.” 

“During times of great challenge, New York has always stepped up to help support those in need,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “I am grateful for the new partnership between New York Disaster Interfaith Services and the mayor’s office in allowing up to 50 houses of worship or faith-based spaces to provide overnight shelter for asylum seekers. With the recent increase in the number of families and individuals arriving, it is critical that we all do our part. I want to thank Mayor Adams and of our faith leaders who are demonstrating their commitment to seeing that those escaping peril and dangers experience hope and renewal.”

“Small faith-based shelters can offer services and opportunities that large shelters can’t,” said New York City Councilmember Gale A. Brewer. “Congratulations to New York Disaster Interfaith Services. Mayor Ed Koch developed successful partnerships with over 100 faith communities to house homeless single adults. I look forward to working with the houses of worship in my district that participate, and I hope that many apply.”

“Our world faces a great humanitarian crisis with displacement of peoples, forced from their homes and homelands,” said Reverend Terry Troia, president and CEO, Project Hospitality. “We as people who love an all-loving God have the unique opportunity to demonstrate the power of God’s love in action by opening the doors of God’s houses and welcoming in God’s people who seek the safety and shelter only we can offer. We who welcome them welcome God! Let us open our doors and welcome them in!”

“We know that faith-based organizations deliver 40 percent of vital human services and generate over $1.7 million in economic impact annually,” Kate Toth, executive director, Bricks and Mortals. “In New York City, 6,000 houses of faith, of every faith, provide support for the most vulnerable. Bricks and Mortals applauds the faith institutions that have stepped up to address the migrant crisis by using their space to house, serve, and support the newest New Yorkers.”

“Interfaith Center of New York is honored to join this initiative,” said Reverend Dr. Chloe Breyer, executive director, Interfaith Center of New York. “It is to the city’s credit that it is launching a bold, constructive, and economical partnership with diverse faith communities that will bring dignity to hundreds of migrants and recognizes the important role that houses of worship of different faiths have already contributed to addressing this crisis.”

“Martin Luther once said, ‘God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does,’” said Pastor Everette Samuel, director of Adventist community services and health ministries, Greater New York Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists. “This pivotal statement reminds houses of worship of their spiritual obligations to step up to assist with the migrant shelter/housing crisis. Providing shelter for asylum seekers aligns with our biblical commands to love our neighbor as ourselves and to care for the foreigner in our land. They’ve come to a sanctuary state looking for a safe space. What better place to find safety than in a sanctuary. A sanctuary represents God’s presence and rulership of his people. And a sanctuary is the safest space to care for the physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being of those seeking help.”


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