Once Again, NYC Forced To Consider Inadequate (Tent) Housing

emergency hospital tents erected in central park in New York in April 2020
Tents in Central Park that were set up to handle the overflow of COVID hospital patients in 2020. In 2022, the tents are needed again, but for different reasons.

With so much misery in the world today, asylum seekers are on the move in considerable numbers. The U.S. is seeing a share, including New York City with the Statue of Liberty and its moving declaration: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

The U.S., like many countries, is already facing a housing crisis for its citizens. New York State has a regionally rare and totally admirable requirement that communities provide shelter for any who are homeless. New York City’s resources are being stretched by its own homeless citizenry, let alone the needs of arriving asylum seekers.

As a result, New York City is thinking about something that much of American society regards as unthinkable: an official commitment to tents as acceptable housing. This remains heresy in much of the country, where tents and homeless tenters are not to be accepted or regularized as housing, but hounded to the ends of the earth and beyond — anywhere as long as it’s somewhere else.

New York is faced with homelessness of refugees, as well as of citizens. The City is committing to a human right to what most of the world, including America, view as inadequate housing — tents1.

Regarding the regularization of tents as housing, over the past couple of years we’ve reported on gradual acceptance of the idea — which is slowly catching up with a homeless lifestyle reality — that unregulated tent living might necessarily qualify as acceptable (though surely not ‘adequate’) housing.

Successfully implementing this idea certainly comes at a cost: there is at least recognition that ‘tent cities’ must be accorded a minimum of safety and services. Sacramento, California has been struggling with the problem for a couple of years now. Try: Without More Funds For Shelter, Sacramento Homeless Plans Head For Rocks

Meanwhile, Portland Oregon’s City Council is working on the details of four official Homelessness encampments, which have been referred to as ‘campuses.’ Picture a leafy university with its homeless ‘students’ playing frisbee on the lawns. Try: The Potential Charm Of a Portland, Oregon Homeless Campus

In Canada, the Region of Kitchener-Waterloo is considering an official regional tent city (as long as its plunked down somewhere else in the region, but where?). Try: Psst! Wanna Become A Legit Homeless Tenter In The Land Of Somewhere Else?

And Halifax has authorized encampments, provided they are small. As this post relates, beyond being legal, there isn’t a lot of support. Try: More Positive Prospects For Tent Encampments As Winter Draws In

On one hand, advocates are demanding that people who are homeless be permitted to live in tents as a basic means of survival. On the other hand in NYC, activists and supporters of refugees are less than pleased with the idea that a tent, or tents, can be considered adequate housing, particularly at the preferred official location of choice, which subject to flooding. Read more in Gothamist: NYC officials rally outside City Hall, call on mayor to ditch migrant tent plan

If America is struggling to find ways of accommodating both its citizen-homeless as well as refugees, its intentions would appear to rise above those of the United Kingdom.

There, a new report is currently in circulation from a conservative think tank and endorsed by the UK Home Secretary, Suella (Cruella to some) Braverman. To prevent asylum seekers from crossing the UK’s ‘border wall,’ i.e. the English Channel,  their proposal is to:

    • criminalize refugees,
    • detain them,
    • ban them from working in the country for life, and then
    • exile them permanently to an African nation of choice (or maybe somewhere else as yet unidentified).

Read more from The Centre For Policy Studies: Stopping the Crossings


  1. International criteria for adequate housing are discussed here, starting at the bottom of page 3.