PROSPECT HEIGHTS — As the city’s migrant crisis continues to escalate with no signs of slowing down, the Diocese of Brooklyn has responded to a plea from Mayor Eric Adams for churches and religious institutions to help the newcomers.
The diocese pointed out that churches in Brooklyn and Queens have already been providing shelter, food, clothing, and other services and will continue to do so.
“On the front lines for almost a year, parishes in Brooklyn and Queens have been helping asylum seekers, many of whom have arrived at our churches with just the clothes on their backs. Our pastors, priests, and volunteers have helped with everything from food pantries to clothing collection drives to spiritual care,” the diocese said in a June 5 statement.
“As the asylum seeker population swelled, the city asked the diocese for help with regard to shelter space. The Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, which has a long history of welcoming immigrants, has responded as Christ taught us, with love and compassion for our brothers and sisters in desperate need,” the statement read.
As an example, the diocese noted that space at the now-closed St. Margaret Mary Church in Astoria was offered for use as a shelter. But officials warned that the arrangement is only a short-term solution and that “the space is not suitable for long-term housing.”
Under the city’s new plan, which Adams announced on June 5, 50 houses of worship and faith-based spaces across the five boroughs will provide shelter for up to 19 men at each location, providing hot meals, showers, and beds.
The city has entered into a two-year partnership with the nonprofit organization New York Disaster Interfaith Services to implement the plan.
Simultaneously, the city will open five new daytime centers to provide programs and support for migrants so that the faith-based institutions can continue their normal activities and services during the day.
At full scale, the plan will provide shelter for nearly 1,000 men. When Adams made his announcement, he noted that faith-based institutions have already been playing a crucial role in helping the city through the migrant crisis.
“No matter what faith you practice, caring for those in need is part of every spiritual tradition,” Adams said in a statement. “Not only will this increase the space we have by nearly 1,000 beds, but it will also connect asylum seekers with local communities.”
It’s not clear exactly when the new program will begin. “We are asking New York City’s faith-based communities to join us in our mission to open our sacred spaces into havens for asylum seekers, our new neighbors in need of our hospitality,” said Peter B. Gudaitis, executive director of New York Disaster Interfaith Services.
Adams also floated the idea of boarding migrants in private residences as well.
Since the spring of 2022, the city has cared for more than 72,000 migrants who have arrived in New York by bus, mostly from Texas and other states on the southern border, the mayor said Monday.
An estimated 46,000 migrants were still in the city’s care as of June 5.
The mayor has called the ongoing situation a crisis and said the city has so far spent $1.2 billion feeding and housing migrants. The city expects to spend a total of $4.3 billion on the issue by the end of 2024.
Meanwhile, the federal government has provided the city with only $40 million to help cover the costs. That’s only enough to house the migrants for five days, Adams said.
Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens (CCBQ) is among the organizations that have stepped up to the plate. Through its partnerships with dozens of parishes across the diocese, CCBQ has assisted approximately 7,000 migrants with food, clothing, and other necessities since the busloads of migrants began arriving in New York last spring, CEO Msgr. Alfred LoPinto recently told The Tablet.
St. Michael-St. Malachy Parish in East New York has provided hot meals, social service referrals, and a room filled with coats, hats, shirts, pants, socks, and underwear, all carefully placed on display tables for those in need to pick out and take with them.