National Guard troops are being deployed to city homeless shelters to assist day-to-day operations as the shelter system remains near a breaking point due to a huge influx of Latin American migrants, the Daily News has learned.
It was not immediately clear how many National Guard members will be part of the unusual shelter deployment, but a source familiar with the matter said troops were already at eight Department of Homeless Services sites citywide as of Wednesday.
A DHS spokeswoman confirmed that National Guard troops have been “providing core operations supports” at some sites.
The troops’ roles include “assisting with food distribution and capacity management and supplementing existing staffing resources on site,” the spokeswoman said.
“These operational supports do not include staffing supports for security, social services or case management services,” she added.
Gov. Hochul earlier this month green-lit the deployment of 147 National Guard members to help Mayor Adams’ administration operate its Randalls Island tent camp for migrants. It has capacity for 1,000 people and is, unlike city homeless shelters, being operated by the city’s Emergency Management Department.
It was not immediately clear whether the troops at the homeless shelters had been rerouted from the Randalls site.
Hochul spokesman Avi Small confirmed National Guard members are at city shelters, but declined to say if they had been redeployed from Randalls. An Adams spokesman declined to comment.
The controversial Randalls camp, which is intended to house single male adults only, has stood largely empty since it opened last Wednesday — with The News spotting less than a dozen migrants going through intake at the site over the first two days.
By contrast, the shelter system remains overburdened.
As of this week, more than 16,000 South and Central American migrants were in the city’s care, a vast majority of them in DHS shelters, according to the Adams administration.
The migrants, who are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, have driven the shelter system population to an all-time high. As of Tuesday night, 63,666 people were sleeping in city shelters, according to DHS.
Even though it’s standing largely unpopulated, the Randalls tent camp cost the city more than $650,000 just to build.
Still, Adams has dismissed the notion that it was a miscalculation on his administration’s part to erect the tent.
“If it comes down that no one uses this tent … I am extremely pleased because that shows the second phase of our plan has been successful,” he told 1010WINS last week.
The Randalls facility opened just as the flow of migrants from U.S. southern border states began to taper off.
According to Adams, only a few busloads of migrants are now arriving per day after the city saw as many as 10 buses per day for months.
The slowdown appears to stem from a new border policy adopted by President Biden that permits federal authorities to expel Venezuelan asylum seekers and send them to Mexico unless they have a sponsor in the U.S. who can vouch for them financially.
The policy restores a practice used by former President Donald Trump. Asked Wednesday if he supports Biden’s decision to bring back the Trump-era strategy, Adams demurred.
“We needed a decompression strategy (at the border),” he said. “They put it in place.”