By Dave Colon
Some 90,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since last April — more than the total capacity of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field combined. They started as asylum seekers who crossed the American border only to be bussed up to the city from Texas, and were often lied to about where they were being sent. The influx has sent the city's homeless shelter population skyrocketing past 100,000. The city and state have struggled to find housing for the new arrivals, and Mayor Eric Adams announced this week the city would attempt to get around its long-standing right-to-housing mandate by setting a 60-day limit for adult migrants staying in emergency relief shelters. That makes things even harder for the migrants to adjust to life here as they’re struggling to find work and permanent homes.
If New York is really a city of immigrants, part of making that more than just empty aphorism is lending a helping hand when new ones arrive. And while the larger issues of how to best recalibrate America's immigration policy are largely outside of the purview of most New Yorkers, that doesn’t mean we’re not eager to help.
If you're looking to help the thousands of asylum seekers who've made the trip to New York City, you can do so with stuff you have lying around the apartment, or by pitching in your time and people skills to help them access basic services. We’ve rounded up a few of the better options below:
A Phone and a Month of Service
Make The Road New York, one of the city’s premier immigrant rights organizations, is raising cold hard cash. The group will take donations of any size to pay for things like cash assistance and MetroCards for asylum seekers, and have pegged $85 as a donation big enough to cover a cell phone with one month of service for a newly-arrived immigrant.
Milk, Eggs, Diapers and Other Essentials
Team TLC, which describes itself as a volunteer organization dedicated to providing resources to asylum seekers, is seeking cash donations for its efforts. The group takes any amount of money, and says for example that $5 buys milk and eggs, and $20 buys diapers for refugees in need.
Workforce Training and Adult Education
Mixteca, a Sunset Park-based community organization that began as a way to advocate for Brooklyn’s burgeoning Latin American and Mexican population, is stepping up to help out 8,000 newly-arrived migrants. The group is raising money for its work in order to get refugees food and toiletries, and connect them with services like immigration advocacy, workforce training and adult education.
Bedding and Hot meals
In response to the city opening a new migrant shelter near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Gowanus Mutual Aid and Clinton Hill/Fort Greene Mutual Aid are asking people to buy bedding for people who stay at the under-equipped shelter. Gowanus Mutual Aid also has a specific fundraiser it’s been using to support migrants, particularly in order to buy food supplies to make hot meals for newly arrived migrants.
The clothes you were going to bring to Beacon’s Closet
The New Neighbors Partnership is an organization that matches families in New York City who have older children who’ve outgrown their clothes with refugee families new to the city whose children need seasonally-appropriate clothing. You can sign up to donate hand me down clothing in “excellent” condition (as the organization describes it, if you wouldn’t give the clothes to a friend’s child then don’t include it) twice per year.
The East Side Neighbors Association is asking people to bring gently used clothes and shoes that range from infant to adult sizes to the Bentley Hotel (500 East 62nd Street), which is being used as a family shelter for 600 migrants. If you’ve got toiletries, new underwear, new or gently-used sneakers or clothing, you can drop it off at the hotel’s reception desk on weekdays between 9am and 5pm.
Obviously people need clean clothes, as well as new clothes. To help with that, the East Village Community Coalition is raising money so asylum seekers who've arrived at a respite center in the neighborhood can use discounted laundry machines at a local laundromat. The effort has already led to getting 100 loads of laundry done, and any money the EVCC raises in excess of laundry needs will go towards services or other needed goods like toiletries or underwear.
Through New Neighbors Partnership, you can also donate cash, sponsor an asylum family’s wish list or volunteer to help out as a translator, cook a welcome dinner for a newly-arrived family or even help NNP staff with their own professional development.
Your ‘people skills’
Catholic Charities Community Services of New York needs volunteers with people skills to help their asylum seeker support as they help refugees get acclimated to life in the city and access needed services. The CCCS asylum-seeker support site at St. Teresa’s Church (139 Henry Street in Manhattan) needs empathetic, patient volunteers who preferably speak Spanish to greet arriving asylum seekers, help them with intake forms, assist case managers and possibly even watch children while their parents are being helped by staff.
Old bikes and MetroCards
There are a couple ways to help newly-arrived immigrants get around town. Bike New York is currently raising money for its Bikes for Asylum Seekers program, which spruces up old bikes that are then donated to asylum seekers. Your money goes towards something as small as a bike rack (a $25 donation) or as big as buying an entirely new bike ($500).
On the mass transit side, South Brooklyn Mutual Aid has been running an ongoing MetroCard fundraiser to pay for unlimited MetroCards for refugees who are being assisted by the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. The church is run by Pastor Juan Carlos Ruiz, who the New Yorker once deemed “the renegade priest helping the undocumented survive the pandemic.” SBMA said the cards are the most-needed items for the migrants, so toss ‘em some bucks.
Migrant children are dealing with their own unique struggles in city schools, but fortunately there are also charitable efforts to help them out. Stand With Students is a four-year-old effort run by New York Cares that's been helping students and schools in neighborhoods dealing with historical inequities and discrimination, and is helping migrant students as well these days. Your donations can students a backpack full of school supplies ($12), college prep courses ($100) or specialized science classes and supplies ($500).
Know others we should include? Email Dave@nygroove.nyc and we’ll update.