Venezuelan migrants look for a path to cross the Rio...

Venezuelan migrants look for a path to cross the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, earlier this month. Credit: The Washington Post / Michael Robinson Chávez

Impoverished Venezuelan migrants who came to New York in the current crisis could soon become eligible to seek welfare and emergency homeless shelter across the state — and under state rules must be sheltered in any county where a bed is sought.

The eligibility was unlocked because the Biden administration last week extended Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Venezuelan migrants who crossed the border into the United States by July 31. 

Biden’s latest designation — under a 1990 humanitarian program established by Congress for migrants whose selected homelands are considered unsafe — exempts qualifying Venezuelans from deportation and unlocks a legal right to work. In New York, at least, TPS also means being able to seek welfare and homeless shelter anywhere statewide, so long as the person meets the same screening criteria that applies to U.S. citizens, according to the state.

Of the more than 118,800 migrants who have come to New York so far during the crisis, Venezuelans are the single largest nationality, about 40% of the total as of July 30, according to Mayor Eric Adams' office. Nationally, Biden's designation covers nearly 500,000 people. It lasts 18 months and can be extended.

A spokesman for the state's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance confirmed that a person who meets the financial criteria, who has been granted TPS, or even someone with a TPS application pending, would be eligible for welfare, shelter, or both, in all counties. The person would be as eligible for those benefits as would any U.S. citizen.

Criteria include income, assets, and whether a household’s needs exceed its resources, the spokesman said. The Biden administration's latest TPS designation is expected to take several weeks to go into effect, said Anne Williams-Isom, an Adams deputy overseeing the crisis locally.

More than 3,000 new migrants last week arrived in the city, Williams-Isom said Wednesday.

Neither Nassau nor Suffolk spokespersons would answer specific questions about the prospect of TPS beneficiaries being sheltered in the counties.

But Nassau, Suffolk and other New York jurisdictions must provide emergency shelter to any qualifying homeless person who needs it, regardless of whether the person is a county resident where a bed is being sought, the state says. TPS extends the rights to those under its protection.

Still, no matter who is seeking help, Long Island counties have sometimes dissuaded those in need from seeking shelter on the Island, according to advocates for the homeless. And the counties have done so, advocates say, regardless of legal eligibility. County residency requirements are imposed, either explicitly or subtly. Sometimes, those in need are explicitly told to go get shelter someplace else.

The state is clear about counties’ obligations to the poor.

Each of New York's 62 counties must provide emergency shelter to anyone who would qualify for welfare — an immigrant who is not legally in the United States is generally ineligible — regardless of whether the person is a resident of that county, according to state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance rules, said Anthony Farmer, an agency spokesman. A beneficiary of TPS is considered to be in the country legally.

Even indigent people from another U.S. jurisdiction who find themselves without a place to sleep would need to be sheltered by the New York county they are in if they seek a bed there, Farmer said. The length of the shelter obligation varies case by case, but could technically be years, he said.

And executive orders — such as those signed in May by Riverhead and Suffolk blocking migrants from being relocated into those places by New York City — do not stop migrants themselves from seeking shelter.

Those with TPS can receive some public benefits but not others, said Cornell Law School professor Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who co-authored the treatise “Immigration Law & Procedure." 

Under state law, a school district must enroll any child who lives in its geographic confines — regardless of homelessness, regardless of immigration status — according to a reminder issued last month by the offices of the state attorney general and education commissioner.

In addition to the state rules on shelter, in 1987, Nassau settled a class-action lawsuit by agreeing to provide emergency shelter to qualifying homeless families. The litigation had been brought in 1982 on behalf of Florence Koster, a mom who with her husband and five kids had nowhere to sleep but a pickup truck parked in an East Meadow shopping center.

In 1981, New York City had agreed to a more sweeping mandate than what the state, or the Koster settlement, now requires. In the city's five boroughs, anyone must be provided room and board, at public expense, regardless of immigration status. That agreement is helping drive the migrant crisis, according to the Adams administration, which is in court trying to partially suspend the mandate.

Greta Guarton, executive director of the Amityville-based Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, said that in her experience, Nassau and Suffolk each provide shelter to anyone who needs it, so long as a person is a resident of that county and isn't an immigrant who is illegally in the United States.

In an email last week, she said that “in general a person would have become homeless in the county where they are seeking shelter (living in permanent housing in the county for at least 1 month), or have been living on the street in the county for a period of time.”

There are 3,536 homeless people on the Island, of whom 1,463 are children, according to the coalition’s latest census. All but 199 live in shelters, although Guarton said last month that she considers the unsheltered figure an undercount.

Robin Sparks, one of the lawyers who signed the 1987 settlement, said that the homeless are still sometimes denied shelter on Long Island, despite the settlement and the state rules.

“I’ve worked in both counties, and this is a problem for anyone seeking shelter!” she wrote earlier this month in an email.

Sparks, now a staff attorney with the public benefits unit of Nassau Suffolk Law Services' Islandia office, said that denials to homeless applicants seeking shelter space are sometimes subtle.

“Both Suffolk and Nassau will try to dissuade them by saying things like, at the front window, ‘We don’t really have anything; we don’t really have anything available,’ and most of the time, I think those people walk away,” Sparks said in an interview. “Some of those people walk away but then call our office.”

She added: “Unless you’ve got a tape recorder going, it’s hard to know exactly what’s being said. But, yes, in my opinion it is a denial.”

She’s hoping that a new housing manager in Suffolk will mean a more permissive approach.

John Batanchiev, the public benefits supervising attorney for Nassau Suffolk Law Services'  Hempstead office, said he’s seen Nassau's Department of Social Services put up “roadblocks,” with clients “given the runaround.”

And in some cases, he said, when a homeless person is in transition from Suffolk, Nassau or New York City, “each county is debating who actually is on the hook for housing this person,” even when the person has roots on the Island and nowhere else to go.

But, he said, “A lot of times people will just give up when they get a denial from DSS. They won’t actually try and fight it,” said Batanchiev

Starting last month, Newsday put in inquiries, about the counties' approaches to homeless sheltering, with the press offices of the Nassau executive, Bruce Blakeman, and his Suffolk counterpart, Steve Bellone. Neither office answered specific questions but sent prepared statements.

Chris Boyle, a Blakeman spokesman, wrote last month in a text message: "Nassau County is fully compliant with all right-to-shelter requirements that do not include undocumented asylum-seekers."

Marykate Guilfoyle, a Bellone spokeswoman, said earlier this month in an email: "As with all Counties outside of NYC, DSS provides shelter to households eligible for Temporary Assistance in Suffolk County."

John Imhof, Nassau’s social services commissioner from 2006 to 2019 under the three most recent previous county executives, Tom Suozzi, Ed Mangano and Laura Curran, said that when he was in charge, the county provided shelter to any qualifying homeless person who needed shelter, whether a single adult, a child or a family.

That's "a legal and, I think, moral obligation," Imhof said. Under his tenure, he said, the county was mandated under the state rules to find shelter for any person who found himself homeless in Nassau, even if that person was not a Nassau resident, as long as the person was not an immigrant who was in the country illegally.

There are already about 242,700 TPS Venezuelan national beneficiaries under the existing TPS program, which has been extended to certain other countries in the past. The latest extension applies for about 472,000 more Venezuelan nationals, and requires an application.

Cheryl Keshner, an advocate and social worker with the Empire Justice Center in Central Islip, said she’s concerned that personnel at each county’s social services agency might be unaware that families such as those with TPS are eligible for services like welfare and emergency shelter — and the families will be denied help.

Impoverished Venezuelan migrants who came to New York in the current crisis could soon become eligible to seek welfare and emergency homeless shelter across the state — and under state rules must be sheltered in any county where a bed is sought.

The eligibility was unlocked because the Biden administration last week extended Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Venezuelan migrants who crossed the border into the United States by July 31. 

Biden’s latest designation — under a 1990 humanitarian program established by Congress for migrants whose selected homelands are considered unsafe — exempts qualifying Venezuelans from deportation and unlocks a legal right to work. In New York, at least, TPS also means being able to seek welfare and homeless shelter anywhere statewide, so long as the person meets the same screening criteria that applies to U.S. citizens, according to the state.

Of the more than 118,800 migrants who have come to New York so far during the crisis, Venezuelans are the single largest nationality, about 40% of the total as of July 30, according to Mayor Eric Adams' office. Nationally, Biden's designation covers nearly 500,000 people. It lasts 18 months and can be extended.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Long Island counties are turning away certain homeless people eligible for shelter, contrary to state rules, homeless advocates say.
  • Soon, because of the Biden administration's extension of Temporary Protected Status to more Venezuelan migrants, shelter eligibility will apply to Venezuelans who relocated to the United States by July 31.
  • All 62 counties must shelter anyone in need — and can't impose a residency requirement, according to the state.

A spokesman for the state's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance confirmed that a person who meets the financial criteria, who has been granted TPS, or even someone with a TPS application pending, would be eligible for welfare, shelter, or both, in all counties. The person would be as eligible for those benefits as would any U.S. citizen.

Criteria include income, assets, and whether a household’s needs exceed its resources, the spokesman said. The Biden administration's latest TPS designation is expected to take several weeks to go into effect, said Anne Williams-Isom, an Adams deputy overseeing the crisis locally.

More than 3,000 new migrants last week arrived in the city, Williams-Isom said Wednesday.

New York State mandates county obligations to the poor

Neither Nassau nor Suffolk spokespersons would answer specific questions about the prospect of TPS beneficiaries being sheltered in the counties.

But Nassau, Suffolk and other New York jurisdictions must provide emergency shelter to any qualifying homeless person who needs it, regardless of whether the person is a county resident where a bed is being sought, the state says. TPS extends the rights to those under its protection.

Still, no matter who is seeking help, Long Island counties have sometimes dissuaded those in need from seeking shelter on the Island, according to advocates for the homeless. And the counties have done so, advocates say, regardless of legal eligibility. County residency requirements are imposed, either explicitly or subtly. Sometimes, those in need are explicitly told to go get shelter someplace else.

The state is clear about counties’ obligations to the poor.

Each of New York's 62 counties must provide emergency shelter to anyone who would qualify for welfare — an immigrant who is not legally in the United States is generally ineligible — regardless of whether the person is a resident of that county, according to state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance rules, said Anthony Farmer, an agency spokesman. A beneficiary of TPS is considered to be in the country legally.

Even indigent people from another U.S. jurisdiction who find themselves without a place to sleep would need to be sheltered by the New York county they are in if they seek a bed there, Farmer said. The length of the shelter obligation varies case by case, but could technically be years, he said.

And executive orders — such as those signed in May by Riverhead and Suffolk blocking migrants from being relocated into those places by New York City — do not stop migrants themselves from seeking shelter.

Those with TPS can receive some public benefits but not others, said Cornell Law School professor Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who co-authored the treatise “Immigration Law & Procedure." 

Under state law, a school district must enroll any child who lives in its geographic confines — regardless of homelessness, regardless of immigration status — according to a reminder issued last month by the offices of the state attorney general and education commissioner.

In addition to the state rules on shelter, in 1987, Nassau settled a class-action lawsuit by agreeing to provide emergency shelter to qualifying homeless families. The litigation had been brought in 1982 on behalf of Florence Koster, a mom who with her husband and five kids had nowhere to sleep but a pickup truck parked in an East Meadow shopping center.

In 1981, New York City had agreed to a more sweeping mandate than what the state, or the Koster settlement, now requires. In the city's five boroughs, anyone must be provided room and board, at public expense, regardless of immigration status. That agreement is helping drive the migrant crisis, according to the Adams administration, which is in court trying to partially suspend the mandate.

Greta Guarton, executive director of the Amityville-based Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, said that in her experience, Nassau and Suffolk each provide shelter to anyone who needs it, so long as a person is a resident of that county and isn't an immigrant who is illegally in the United States.

In an email last week, she said that “in general a person would have become homeless in the county where they are seeking shelter (living in permanent housing in the county for at least 1 month), or have been living on the street in the county for a period of time.”

There are 3,536 homeless people on the Island, of whom 1,463 are children, according to the coalition’s latest census. All but 199 live in shelters, although Guarton said last month that she considers the unsheltered figure an undercount.

Robin Sparks, one of the lawyers who signed the 1987 settlement, said that the homeless are still sometimes denied shelter on Long Island, despite the settlement and the state rules.

“I’ve worked in both counties, and this is a problem for anyone seeking shelter!” she wrote earlier this month in an email.

Homeless applicants seeking shelter can be unlawfully denied, advocates say

Sparks, now a staff attorney with the public benefits unit of Nassau Suffolk Law Services' Islandia office, said that denials to homeless applicants seeking shelter space are sometimes subtle.

“Both Suffolk and Nassau will try to dissuade them by saying things like, at the front window, ‘We don’t really have anything; we don’t really have anything available,’ and most of the time, I think those people walk away,” Sparks said in an interview. “Some of those people walk away but then call our office.”

She added: “Unless you’ve got a tape recorder going, it’s hard to know exactly what’s being said. But, yes, in my opinion it is a denial.”

She’s hoping that a new housing manager in Suffolk will mean a more permissive approach.

John Batanchiev, the public benefits supervising attorney for Nassau Suffolk Law Services'  Hempstead office, said he’s seen Nassau's Department of Social Services put up “roadblocks,” with clients “given the runaround.”

And in some cases, he said, when a homeless person is in transition from Suffolk, Nassau or New York City, “each county is debating who actually is on the hook for housing this person,” even when the person has roots on the Island and nowhere else to go.

But, he said, “A lot of times people will just give up when they get a denial from DSS. They won’t actually try and fight it,” said Batanchiev

Starting last month, Newsday put in inquiries, about the counties' approaches to homeless sheltering, with the press offices of the Nassau executive, Bruce Blakeman, and his Suffolk counterpart, Steve Bellone. Neither office answered specific questions but sent prepared statements.

Chris Boyle, a Blakeman spokesman, wrote last month in a text message: "Nassau County is fully compliant with all right-to-shelter requirements that do not include undocumented asylum-seekers."

Marykate Guilfoyle, a Bellone spokeswoman, said earlier this month in an email: "As with all Counties outside of NYC, DSS provides shelter to households eligible for Temporary Assistance in Suffolk County."

John Imhof, Nassau’s social services commissioner from 2006 to 2019 under the three most recent previous county executives, Tom Suozzi, Ed Mangano and Laura Curran, said that when he was in charge, the county provided shelter to any qualifying homeless person who needed shelter, whether a single adult, a child or a family.

That's "a legal and, I think, moral obligation," Imhof said. Under his tenure, he said, the county was mandated under the state rules to find shelter for any person who found himself homeless in Nassau, even if that person was not a Nassau resident, as long as the person was not an immigrant who was in the country illegally.

There are already about 242,700 TPS Venezuelan national beneficiaries under the existing TPS program, which has been extended to certain other countries in the past. The latest extension applies for about 472,000 more Venezuelan nationals, and requires an application.

Cheryl Keshner, an advocate and social worker with the Empire Justice Center in Central Islip, said she’s concerned that personnel at each county’s social services agency might be unaware that families such as those with TPS are eligible for services like welfare and emergency shelter — and the families will be denied help.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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