A serious fire recently damaged some apartment housing in Manhattan. While most of the tenants were able to receive emergency housing assistance from the city, between 100 and 150 tenants have been left on their own because they are ineligible. Because the immigrants are undocumented, the tenants’ names cannot appear on leases and thus they live unofficially at the address. They are considered disqualified to receive any sort of aid from the Department of Housing Preservations’ Intake Relocation program.
The NYC Department of Housing’s program is implemented in order to provide emergency housing for those who are left temporarily homeless. Unfortunately, that may not matter for immigrants who are undocumented. They also cannot stay in any facilities that are provided by the Department of Homeless Services where the other legal tenants are eligible to stay. The Red Cross has decided to provide temporary assistance to the immigrants and help them look for new housing. The rest of the immigrants have moved in with relatives or are renting rooms elsewhere. According to New York Sen. Adriano Espaillat, there are many channels available to help the immigrants but because of their legal status, they can be fearful of seeking help. “If we had an immigration reform, they would be legalized and would not have to be boarding at other person’s home.”
Immigrants faced similar difficulties during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Because of their immigration status, they were unable to seek any FEMA aid because they were scared they would be deported. Immigrant advocacy groups have attempted to lobby officials to set aside funding to assist undocumented immigrants affected by natural disasters, but so far they have not received any support. Undocumented immigrants face numerous challenges finding permanent housing without the burden of a natural disaster. In New York, immigrants are ineligible for public Housing and the application process “requires all tenants to verify citizenship or immigration status.” “Undocumented immigrants often end up in informal housing arrangements. A lot of times the only things they’re able to rent are single rooms inside of a house or a sublet from someone who doesn’t care about documentation” says Immigration attorney Justin Skinner.
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