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

June 5, 2023

Pastor Gilford Monrose, Faith Advisor, Office of the Mayor: You’re all looking good. Good morning.

Audience: Good morning.

Pastor Monrose: Is this the faith community of New York City or what?

Audience: Yes.

Pastor Monrose: We did it. We're here. Good morning to everyone. I am Pastor Gil Monrose. I serve as the faith advisor to the mayor of New York City and also to run the office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, which will be working with NYDIS and our partners to oversee our new partnership with our faith community.

As we have witnessed an unprecedented influx of migrants to New York City, and some call it a crisis, we call it an opportunity for the faith community to do the work that they would normally do, which is providing compassion, comfort, and care to all New Yorkers. Whether you are unhoused, a street homeless or migrants coming to our city fleeing your country to raise your family in peace and have an opportunity for a better future, the faith community stands ready to work with New York City in order to support migrants who are here.

As it has been written in the Statue of Liberty, it says, "Give me your tired, your poor, your humble masses yearning to be free," today I am really grateful to stand with faith leaders who have, and will continue, to open their doors to asylum seekers providing the space and hand of community to care for them. Truly, New York is a city of faith. We are totally happy and really blessed to be here today with our faith leaders who are here and those who are across the city to be able to announce this program. Now I'll bring to the podium the mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thanks so much, Pastor Monrose. I guess this is an opportunity built on a crisis because we are facing a crisis as it continues to unfold. This administration has been staying ahead of the crisis. I will say over and over again that when you look at other municipalities, you'll see people sleep on the streets. You'll see people sleeping in airports. You'll see people really trying to manage a crisis that we're doing so. Over and over again I believe we are a victim of our managerial skills with the deputy mayor and her team and Pastor Melrose, Pastor Salgado and others who have just successfully addressed this issue in real time that's ever-folding. It's unfolding every day. We have a tendency to believe that it goes away, but it's not. We're still receiving a large number of migrant and asylum seekers who are coming to the city and looking for care.

As we have always partnered with our faith community back from our days, Pastor Monrose and I are part of Brooklyn Borough President. It was our faith leaders that they were with us throughout many of the tragedies that we faced, particularly during Covid. They were there over and over again opening their houses of worship as we stood with them to push to get their houses of worship open because they played a vital role in the recovery aspect.

Many of our food pantries, they are located in our faith-based entities, from our mosques, our synagogues, our churches, our Sikh temples. Our Sikh temples, they give out free meals every weekend when I go and visit when people are there to get meals, even if you're not of the same faith. This is a natural fit. It was incorrectly reported that we turned away faith leaders. We were in a process four months of sitting down with our faith leaders trying to navigate many of the complexities that are associated with how to use spaces as a place for respite centers and for places that people can sleep, and at the same time maintain the worship and services that take place in our various houses of worship. The faith-based community has never been off our radar. They have always been part of everything we do here in planning around proactive and responding to a crisis. There's always a piece of this that we bring in our faith-based community.

I want to thank Pastor Monrose. This was a challenging time, not navigating God, but navigating government and getting government to understand that the rules cannot get in the way when you're dealing with a crisis. It's sometimes difficult, but we use the term GSD for a reason, God getting stuff done. That is what the houses of worship that are here are doing. I want to thank all of these leaders that are behind us from different walks of life, of different faith institutions. No matter what faith you practice, it is in all of our faith that we are supposed to care for those who are in need. Not only is it on the Statue of Liberty, but it is on our text that we look and read and study from.

Just as a Christian, the scripture reminds us, "Love thy neighbor as thyself and welcome the stranger among us." New York City has been living up to that. When you look at what we have done, over 70,000 migrant asylum seekers that entered the city, as well as taking care of those who were here already in need of care, we have been doing that. Today, I'm proud to announce a new partnership with the New York Disaster Interfaith Services. They have been doing this work already during our crises in the past. It's just really, really something to think about when you see off the radar, just doing the work every day. We cannot thank them enough. I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing as representatives are here.

Well, this will allow us to help our faith community shelter those in need of housing, of using houses of worship throughout the five boroughs. The program, which delivers on our commitment and our asylum seeker blueprint, we laid this out in the blueprint and now we are actually continuing to put in place the things that we stand in. It would expand the amount of emergency shelter available to asylum seekers, helping to ease the strain on New York City's existing shelter system and integrating asylum seekers into local communities. That's why this is a win-win. It's an amazing return on our investment. It is allowing us to have asylum seekers be a part of a community because that's the best way for individuals to really incorporate themselves in the daily lives of New York City.

Up to 50 houses of worship would be able to take part in this program to start with offering shelter to a combined nearly 1,000 asylum seekers. Participating sites will offer safe shelter every day with meals, services, clothing, donations, and the other services traditionally offered at our other shelter sites.

Beyond opening their doors and providing these services, these sites will also connect asylum seekers with strong community networks. That is so important when you look at the feeling of isolation and not being part of a community. When I visited some of the shelters over the weekend, some of the HERRCs and speaking to the people there, they love the city, they want to work in the city, and they want to be part of a community and network in the city. That's what the faith-based institutions are going to do.

Through our hard times and difficult crises, our faith leaders and communities have been there for New Yorkers over and over again. We believe this is the step in another direction that we can help address this crisis that we are facing. We are asking those who are interested, interested in faith institutions, can visit to see the program requirements and fill out this survey to support asylum seekers. Even if you have a location that is not large enough to house someone, there's a role for everyone here. We're asking all of our faith-based institutions to get involved and get engaged as they have been doing for so many years.

This influx of asylum seekers is a serious crisis. One that New York City is facing largely on our own. It's unfair. It's not right that New York is going through this. Through May 31st, we spent over $1.2 billion on this crisis, already doubled what the IBO inaccurately estimated for this entire year. There's a lot of people putting out predictions on dollar amounts, but numbers don't lie, $1.2 billion since May 31st. Despite these staggering costs, the federal government has allocated less than $40 million in funding. That's enough to pay for five days. National crisis being paid by taxpayers in New York, and we've received from FEMA enough to pay for five days.

Even with difficult circumstances that we've been under, I cannot say how proud I am of the team and the leadership of Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom who has just really managed this crisis and just showed true leadership during difficult moments. Every other day another aspect of this crisis reveals itself. Her team has been navigating over and over again. We saw what happened a few days ago at Lincoln, a correctional facility and how she had to manage that crisis and make sure that we can get it up and operating. I just really believe the record has not been accurately reported on what this administration, and under her leadership, what it has accomplished. We supported over 72,000 asylum seekers, opened over 160 sites for asylum seekers to rest their heads and receive services and help people in need get healthcare, education, legal aid, and so much more. We're doing our job here in the city. We need this national problem to be addressed by our national leaders. We want a realistic plan that begins with a robust decompression strategy at our southern border. 108,000 cities, villages, towns, it's time for all of us to address this national problem.

We want to declare a national state of emergency here in the state to get additional resources in, the federal government to do this. We're calling on that. We want real immigration reform. The Republican Party must stop preventing this from happening. We have to allow people to work. There could be nothing … And we have to allow people to work. There could be nothing in this crisis that's more anti-American than individuals coming to this country and they cannot work to provide for themselves. That is the cornerstone and the bedrock of America, your right to work. To come to this country and you're told that you cannot work, it's just unfair to those who are picking up the course, it is unfair to those who came here to pursue the American Dream. It is a nightmare not to be able to work to provide for yourself. Let's give the asylum seekers and the migrants the right to work, and not allow politics to get in the way of people wanting to provide for themselves.

We saw a few weeks ago, I served with Governor Hochul and local labor and business leaders, all combined saying, "We have jobs available. Let's give them the opportunity to work in these fields. This would allow asylum seekers to start providing for themselves." Something they say repeatedly. As I walked through the Roosevelt Hotel, I heard it in many different languages, people want to work. Let's give them the right to do so. With the support and partnership of so many, including our faith-based communities, I want to really thank them for being here today and inspiring others to step up and ensure that we get this job done. We have been doing it and we're going to continue to do our part and I'm glad to be here with our faith leaders that are stating they're willing to do their part. Thank you very much. Thank you, pastor.

Pastor Monrose: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. And thank you all, again. And so now we'll have Peter Gudaitis, who is the president of NYDIS, who will be running our program. And so Peter, you can come to the podium.

Peter Gudaitis, Executive Director and CEO, New York Disaster Interfaith Services: Good morning. I first want to thank the mayor for his vision and long-term partnership in working with faith communities to address many of the challenges our city faces. And certainly to Pastor Monrose and Danny Cabrera in the housing office for getting us to this point in the contracting process. It's been light speed for a city contract, but that's still a few months.

Our opportunity here is to work with houses of worship that have a sacred calling to offer hospitality to the stranger and to give them dignity and hope when they have potentially lost that along their journey here to the United States. These asylum seekers and migrants who've come from Central and South America as well as West Africa through an arduous journey, a traumatizing journey, will now have the opportunity to live in small group shelters of 19, as the mayor stated. And what we hope is a program that will expand beyond the initial 50 houses of worship, as well as five hospitality centers that will be open during daytime where these individuals can come and seek a variety of services, have access to showers, food, legal assistance, new clothing, and those things that they require to live here while they await their day in court or their opportunity to work.

We certainly join the mayor's administration in calling on the federal government to expedite the work process for all of these individuals who are coming here seeking asylum. Many of them want to work and certainly want to contribute to this city's economy by being a part of this community and we welcome them, of course, with open arms. I want to thank some of the other organizations that are going to be partnering with us. Project Hospitality, which will be running the shelters on Staten Island as well as the Interfaith Center of New York that will join us in working to recruit congregations of all faith traditions to open their doors as shelter space. Trinity Church Wall Street, the Tzu Chi Foundation, Delivering Good, Islamic Relief USA. These are other organizations that are donating both supplies to the shelters, as well as goods to the individuals who will be our guests over the coming years as they find their way into the job force and hopefully to a path to citizenship if that's what their court proceedings allow anyway. I am grateful to my colleague, Jennifer Cannon, to my left here who'll be running this program for NYDIS. NYDIS was founded in the aftermath of 9/11, responding with faith-based organizations across the city to support both first responders and civilians who were impacted by that terrorist event and the many thousands of people it left unemployed.

And to this day over the many programs we offer, we also run an emergency shelter network that citywide has 38 shelters that house people in houses of worship every night who are individuals that find themselves living on our streets and in need of emergency placements. So we're also hoping that beyond the life of this contract, that the houses of worship who do open their doors to asylum seekers will continue to see an opportunity to serve our city long term in providing shelter space for New Yorkers who find themselves living on the streets and in need of emergency shelter. So there's a vision here. We wholly support the mayor's efforts and want to applaud everything New York has done to help asylees the right thing to do versus the wrong thing to do, which is taking people and shipping them around for political purposes rather than actually bringing them dignity and hope. Thank you.

Pastor Monrose: Thank you, thank you. Thank you, Peter for that and really appreciate the comments. And we are seeing, again, the work that the faith committee is called to do in this city, and so we are grateful to Peter and his leadership on this as well. Next, is, we're going to have Soniya Ali, who is going to come from a perspective of actually doing the work already and her continued partnership with us under her community. Oh, there you are.

Soniya Ali, Executive Director, Muslim Community Center: As-salamu alaykum. Peace and blessings upon you. And good morning. My name is Soniya Ali. I am the executive director of the Muslim Community Center located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. As we are all in awareness, New York City and the metropolitan area is in the midst of an ongoing humanitarian crisis. During these trying times, Mayor Adams has been doing everything in his capacity with his tenacity and empathetic strength to help the migrants coming into our great city. For Muslims and faith leaders across the city, it is an honor to be in the presence of the skillful leadership of Mayor Eric Adams during these testing times. In addition to being in solidarity with the city of New York, we are truly blessed to be amongst friends from our faith communities. By the will of God, New York City has been chosen to be one of the many communities to serve those who are in need.

We as houses of worship are honored to step up and help the mayor's office to provide safe shelter for these families who are seeking a better life for themselves and their children. As people of faith, we know that faith should not just reside in our hearts, but it should translate into action. As Muslims, as people of faith, we are ready to step up and be there for our brothers and sisters in humanity. It is said in Muslim scripture, "Love for your brother what you love for yourself." There is no time better than now to live up to these words and make them a reality. Thank you, Mayor Adams, for all that you do, and thank you faith leaders for being a shining light in this great city that we call New York. Thank you everybody.

Pastor Monrose: Thank you. Thank you so much for those kind words. And now we have Reverend Terry Troia from Staten Island with Project Hospitality.

Reverend Dr. Terry Troia, President and Chief Executive Officer, Project Hospitality: We too are also honored and humbled to stand by the side of our mayor in solidarity with the City of New York, doing what God has called us to do, which is to welcome the stranger in. For the last 40 years, Project Hospitality, an interfaith effort on Staten Island, has coordinated faith-based shelters for people in need for homeless people on the streets. 40 years. Even through the pandemic, we were the only houses of worship in the city of New York that stayed open every night to provide for people in need, despite the risk to the volunteers that may have been exposed to COVID in those nights. And during the pandemic, we opened up an immigrant shelter that I slept in for nearly six months every night until we could get other volunteers to join us.

It's that work that brings us to today to say that we have at least two houses of worship on Staten Island who has stepped forward, and they will be opening up their doors to people in need who have come to this country seeking refuge. So brothers and sisters of faith, this is the moment. If we love God, as God loves us, if we care for others as God cares for us. If we seek justice for the least of our brothers and sisters, as God is justice seeker for his whole creation, then now we need to step up, step out. We need to open our hearts as we open our doors and welcome others as God welcomes us each moment of our lives. As God enters into our lives with mercy, so may every house of worship allow brothers and sisters, asylum seekers to enter into their lives and into their sacred space, which is God's sacred space, not our own.

We call on people to let go of the secular worries of this world, which sometimes preoccupy what we call our sacred spaces. And instead to trust that God has led us to this moment. And the very places where we offer prayer are the places where we need to offer sanctuary and shelter because that act makes that ground, that building, that place and us, sacred in the eyes of God, doing the divine activity we are called, to love our neighbor in need, to love others as God loves us.

Audience: Amen.

Mayor Adams: That's good. Could we say amen?

Audience: Amen.

Mayor Adams: That was really good. Could we say amen again?

Audience: Amen.

Mayor Adams: One more time. Could we say amen again?

Audience: Amen.

Mayor Adams: That was good. What am I doing now? Oh, we opened up the questions? All right. First of all, council member. Yes. We have forever borough president, Councilwoman Gale Brewer. That's right. Come on. You can say a few words.

City Council Member Gale Brewer: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. I'm here because I am very excited about this program. I've known the work that has been going on with the emergency shelters for many years. I think at one time we saved them because de Blasio was going to do something terrible. I don't remember. But we saved them.

And this community will do what is not always possible in a larger community setting, which is to work with the individuals. Right now on the Upper West side we have Broadway communities and we have St. Paul and St. Andrew, which are doing exactly what is being discussed today. They are sending people who want to go elsewhere. People are getting jobs, legal or illegal, I don't care, they're working. And they're getting support from the neighborhood for the families, clothing, everything that is needed. So that kind of personal attention is incredibly important. So that's why it's so exciting to be here today because I know every one of these faith leaders will do that. And I'm certainly supportive of working. I've been saying that from the very beginning. Mr. President, sign those damn papers. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: I remember during borough president, we went to one of the shelters that was in the synagogue in Park Slope and we stayed overnight with the men that were there and it was very revealing of who's there. I think there's a misconception of who's in shelters. I think there's a misconception of people who are seeking asylum here. And if you don't spend time speaking with individuals, then you'll take another narrative.

And I thought it was fitting when Deputy Mayor Isom and I were at Roosevelt Hotel. There was a gentleman there named Omar. Omar's mom came here with her children going months through the jungle, being sexually abused, coming here living with three children on the street and she provided for them. Eventually she was able to get some form of employment. They were able to eventually get a home for themselves. Omar is now the supervisor over at the Roosevelt Hotel taking care of the asylum seekers who are there.

This is a narrative that those who have gone through the narrative are now trying to help people who are now currently in the narrative. From Omar to Commissioner Castro, these are real personal stories, and every time people go and see what's happening, they are reliving their own journey and their own narrative and their own story. And that is why we try to be as compassionate and as caring as possible.

And so in spite of all of the daily incoming of what we are going through, we are waking up every day. We realize we have a mission, we are focused, we're disciplined, and we're executing on it. It is my vision to take the next step to this, go to the faith-based locales, and then move to private residence. There are residents who are suffering right now because of economic challenges. They have spare rooms. They have locales. And if we can find a way to get over the 30-day rule and other rules that government has in its place, we can take that $4.2 billion, $4.3 even may be now, that we potentially would have to spend and we could put it back in the pockets of everyday New Yorkers, everyday houses of worship, instead of putting in the pockets of corporations and some of those corporations come from outside our city. We should be recycling our own dollars. We should take this crisis and go to opportunities. That is how we can deal with this.

But I want to be clear on this, this is not sustainable. We need to be clear. This is not sustainable. We cannot continue to sustain this with the inflow that we're receiving. So because we are managing this, I don't want anyone to believe that this is sustainable because it is not. We need work permits, we need a decompression strategy, we need real immigration reform. Some of that is long term, but there are immediate needs that this city needs. So we'll open up to a few questions.

Question: Hi, Mayor Adams.

Mayor Adams: What's going on, Katie?

Question: Great, how are you?

Mayor Adams: Good.

Question: I wanted to ask you, related to the asylum seeker crisis. This will take off some of the pressure of the places you've set up for asylum seekers, but I know one place that I believe is still seeking approval from the FAA is the use of hangers at JFK airport. So I was curious if you could give us an update as to where that stands. I forget the capacity of how many would be in that hangar, but it would take off some of the pressure. But do you have an update on whether or not?

Mayor Adams: Yes, we have the approval on all the different levels but one, and once we get that final approval then we can execute our plan. So we are just waiting on approval on one more level.

Question: What level is that?

Mayor Adams: I don't want to go into the level because I don't want y'all harassing them. Once we get it, I'll let you know.

Question: Good morning, Mr Mayor.

Mayor Adams:. Hey Juliet, how are you?

Question: All right, thanks. How are you?

Mayor Adams: Good, good, good.

Question: I wanted to follow up on your suggestion here about private residences. Would you be subsidizing families or landlords for that? Number one. Number two, basement apartments are currently illegal. Would that change or how do you work with that?

Mayor Adams: Well, first of all, we never put anyone in an illegal setting, and we were hoping and we're still continuing to push in our Albany plan to look at basement apartments so that we could legalize them and put them on the pathway to legalization. And yes, we would subsidize. It is cheaper for us to have… First of all, it's cheaper and it's a good investment for us to go to a family and assist them instead of placing people in large congregate settings or in these emergency hotels. And then if you are a family member where you are bilingual, you are going to be able to help the bilingual person that's coming here. We are receiving, I saw at the Roosevelt Hotel, we're receiving some of our Haitian refugees and asylum seekers. If you speak Creole, you can help that family. The closer we bring the asylum seekers and the migrants to everyday New Yorkers, the easier it would be for them to transition into society.

Question: Then with the landlord, let's say in a private residence or a two family house or something, would that be a lease with the city? How would that work?

Mayor Adams: That's it, we’re trying to navigate all the rules of how to get it done. There are many layers to how someone can use their space. We want to make sure that we follow all the rules and those rules that need to be changed within my power, we will push to do so. If there's rules that need to be changed on the state level, we're going to reach out to our state colleagues to do so.

Question: Mr. Mayor, what's the update at the Lincoln Correctional Facility and where were some of those migrants moved temporarily? I know some went upstate. Where are those people now and have they been moved back to Lincoln Correctional?

Mayor Adams: The state gave us the facility and I want to thank the governor for giving us that facility. And they had an issue with some of their piping and they were temporarily moved to other locations. We also brought buses there. Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom was on the ground and her team was on the ground. We brought buses there for those who did not want to go to a new location and to wait it out. The plumbers arrived. They were able to rectify the problem and we were able to move people back into the facility.

Question: Mr. Mayor, one federal-level question.

Mayor Adams: Sharp suit, man.

Question: Thanks. With this sort of debt ceiling situation kind of put to bed, I'm wondering if that's at all changed the tenor — or do you expect it to change the tenor — of your conversations with the administration about financial aid, logistical aid, the use of humanitarian [inaudible]. Locally, the comptroller sent you a letter last week sort of discussing certain concerns around data sharing for third parties to be able to monitor the spending, or, more closely, in terms of the city spending on some of these responses. I'm just wondering if…. Your response to that letter, if you have any thoughts on additional data sharing that you can be doing just in terms of having kind of full confidence in the estimates and the numbers.

Mayor Adams: I don't see the lack of confidence. I stood here with our budget director. He clearly showed the numbers and what they are, and so the economic challenges that we are facing. We are at this phase in life where either you are going to believe or you're not going to believe. So if you want to stay in the universe, you be in the control of the universe of, well, I just don't believe it. The reason I don't believe he believe it because I have yet to see him stay in the HERRC, I have yet to see him go among this and… Has he been to Washington?

Question: But is there a logistic?

Mayor Adams: Can you ask him that, though? Can you ask him, has he gone to Washington? This is the number one issue that is impacting New York City. Has he gone to Washington as a citywide leader? Okay. I don't think he has either.

Question: Security officers, you guys were talking about…

Mayor Adams: I'm sorry, who?

Question: Posting security officers outside some new shelters. I was just wondering if security has been a concern, kind of the reason why.

Mayor Adams: No, and that was interesting. When the deputy mayor and I went to the Roosevelt Hotel and we went to another location, and as I move around, I'm asking the security personnel you have now 40-something thousand people that are currently in our care and they're saying security issues are not a problem at all. And I'm just really impressed with that because when you put a large number of people together, a lot of single men together, we are just not seeing security issues, and that is really impressive. It shows how much they want to come here. They want to participate, not disrupt our way of life.

Question: I just want to know why you guys paid the security officers?

Mayor Adams: Well… Hold on, hold on. It would be irresponsible not to have thousands of people at a location and not have security personnel. I would not allow that to happen. The omnipresence of public safety prevent actions from taking place. And so it would be irresponsible to have thousands of people at a location and not have some type of security.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you said a few times you've been a victim of your own success because of how well the city has housed the migrants, and the criticism has been that you've maybe focused too much on emergency housing and not on some of the other issues like legal issues, helping people file for asylum. So I'm wondering if you can address that at all. Do you think there needs to be a two-pronged process to this, to sort of help move people out of shelter more quickly, as opposed to maybe just focusing on housing?

Mayor Adams: No, I don't think there should be a two-prong. I think there needs to be an eight-prong. We need to be up in Albany fighting to build more housing because the inventory is wrong. I spoke to the leaders over the weekend, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer is up in Albany. We need to be in Washington, D.C. fighting to get our fair share of funding. Our teams has been in Washington, D.C. We need to make sure that we look at any backlog of how we get people out of shelters and see what's in the way of doing so. Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright has been doing that, and under Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz, we have looked at those areas that we can bring people out and we continue to modify that. 

We need to be on a same prong of dealing with how do we find new locations and deal with some of the pushback that comes with the location. I need to make sure that my press team can deal with the inaccurate reporting that you guys are doing. I'm on a lot of prongs, man. Two prong? I wish we did have two prongs. This is a multi-prong ... I'm not drinking out of a water hose. I'm drinking out of a fire hose and we are managing it.

Question: Mr. Mayor, one of the obstacles you have to deal with in terms of people getting work permits is people actually applying for asylum. And I believe it was last week, it may have been before, Deputy Mayor Isom talked about how not that many people relative to the overall influx have applied for asylum. What's the city doing to address that, to help people get those applications in?

Mayor Adams: Well, number one, there's a real backlog on the national level. We need more people to hear the cases. That whole process, there's a bottleneck in the whole process. We need to find out ways to expedite that process, particularly what we're dealing with here. We have partnered with some great nonprofits who are assisting in filling out the applications, assisting people in going through this process. I think the process is too labor-intensive, but I don't make those rules. But we have partnered with nonprofits. We are reaching out to our law schools to push this through. You know what? Now I think about it, CUNY Law School should come and give us a hand. Now that I think about it. Since, you want to be freedom fighters, come fight for freedom on the ground. But we…

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: Okay. I don't see them. Okay. So we need to get our pro bono law firms to come in because there's a lot of paperwork, a lot needs to be done. We visited several sites and we want to continue to move this forward.

Question: Have you reached out to private law firms for that?

Mayor Adams: Yes, we have.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I wonder if you can give us some sense of how much money the city is going to be spending to help these faith based groups run their programs and what the money will be used for in terms of providing services? Are these going to be respite sites? Are these going to be places where they can stay for long periods of time? Will it be food, will it be shelter? Will it be bigger? Just give us a sense of-

Mayor Adams: Yes, it's cheaper than the hotels. It's going to cost us about $125 a night. Far cheaper than what we're paying in emergency hotels. And if we could, as the deputy mayor has been trying to do, we're looking to drive down costs as much as possible to bring down what this is costing taxpayers. And each site is different. Some of the sites that we're going to deal with, may be just respite locations, some could be able to hold people longer. So each site is different. It's not a one size fit all.

Question: On allotment, is it like $50 million, $1 billion, whatever…

Mayor Adams: We don't have the exact numbers. The more we can put in our faith-based locations, the better. I would rather people be in houses of worship where they're connected to people, community, care and compassion than being in a congregate setting that's not connected to those things. We are trying to do that, but it's difficult when you're in a large setting of that magnitude.

Question: And so does this help them get jobs? Does this help them make connections to people who could give them jobs?

Mayor Adams: What we have been doing — and I'm of the Gale Brewer club — if they could work somewhere, I cannot tell them to do so, but if someone delivers my food, I'm not going to say, "Are you asylum seeker? Let me see your papers." That's not going to happen. We are giving training to some, so when there are jobs available, once they finish the process and they're allowed to work, we're not starting from scratch.

Question: Mr. Mayor, when was the last time you had a one-on-one conversation about this issue with President Biden? And when you talk about the decompression strategy here in the State of New York, what is Governor Hochul's take on that and is she going to help you in that decompression strategy?

Mayor Adams: We sent a letter, we being for the mayors that are impacted by this, we sent a letter to the White House to request a meeting with the president. The last time I spoke face-to-face with the president was probably earlier this year on this topic at an event, had an opportunity to speak with him. But other than that, we have not. But we did send a letter to the White House requesting to sit down with the president and talk about this. Governor Hochul has been a partner, it's unfortunate that some of our county leaders of state don't realize that this is a statewide issue. We are dealing with the legal challenges that they're having and we're going to continue to utilize the courts to assist us in having everybody understand that this is a humanitarian crisis that we have to face.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, it was mentioned multiple times in press conferences that this is a strategy that has existed to house homeless people at houses of worship. What is different about this new program and is there a dollar amount on how much the city's investing?

Mayor Adams: It's a moving dollar amount. The more we can get in, the better. I'm hoping this is a better return on our investment. This is a better use of taxpayers dollars. If we could expand this as much as possible. I was thinking about what you were saying about Project Hospitality and I remember speaking with you over Covid, I was sleeping in Borough Hall. You were sleeping at one of the centers. And so that's the type of commitment that we can get. That's a better return on investment. So we don't know the exact dollar amount, but we would like to transition as much as possible out of these HERRCs into using this method. But let's be clear, buses are still coming. I don't know how many buses we got over the weekend. Deputy Mayor?

Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, Health and Human Services: Four.

Mayor Adams: We got about four buses that are coming. So even when we find new spaces, we're getting new people to put in those spaces. And so that's part of the challenge that we have. That's why I keep saying this is not sustainable. We cannot just cross our fingers and hope we're not going to get a few hundred to come in. This is just not sustainable and we need a permanent fix and not a fix.

Question: Mr. Mayor, the city decades ago signed the right to shelter.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: That doesn't mean that you personally believe there's a constitutional right to shelter. Do you personally believe or does this administration believe that there's a right to shelter under the state constitution?

Mayor Adams: I believe that we should never put people in circumstances where we cannot give them the basic care that they deserve, with the level of compassion and dignity that was provided to my family and others. That's what I believe in. Right now, we cannot give people the care that they deserve based on the volume of what we are seeing. That's not sustainable.

Question: Is there a right to shelter?

Mayor Adams: Listen, listen. My belief is my belief. The court will decide what the city must do. And so I'm not going to get into, "What is your belief? What's not your belief?" I believe we need to treat people with dignity, compassion, and respect. That's what I believe. That's how I was treated, with dignity, compassion, and respect. And we want to do it to others. Faith leaders, thank you so much.

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