Via America, here’s a glimpse of some New York City deacons doing what deacons do, as migrants continue to pour into the city:
New York City faces a particular challenge in housing migrants—its “right to shelter” policy has contributed to its comparably low homelessness rate since it was established in 1979, but the recent surge of migrants has strained social services. The city has opened over 200 shelters to asylum seekers in response to the surge in migrant numbers.
According to the mayor’s office, more than 104,000 migrants have arrived in New York since the spring of 2022. Many went straight to Catholic Charities for help. Since July 2022, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has assisted about 8,000 asylum seekers in finding housing and formalizing their immigration status, though C.C.B.Q. is not a housing provider itself.
A Catholic Charities community outreach center is often one of the first stops for new arrivals to the city. Much of the aid its staff provides involves referrals and assistance in connecting with city and state resources.
“It’s been challenging” to serve this influx of migrants, said Richard Slizeski, a senior vice president in Catholic Charities’ Office of Mission. Still, he sees his work as “a real privilege,” connecting aid to these contemporary migrants to the biblical demand to assist the widow, the orphan and the sojourner.
“We pulled in a lot of people from the community,” to deal with this latest surge of asylum seekers, said Mr. Slizeski. Among them was outreach coordinator Deacon Manuel Quintana, a lawyer who assists migrants with their paperwork each week. “It just seemed there was such a need,” said Deacon Quintana, explaining how he became involved.
Although the initial migrant surge to New York overwhelmingly consisted of Central American migrants, Mr. Slizeski said that in recent weeks many West African migrants have arrived at the center. “There’s a whole new language set” for staff to deal with, he said, “some of which are really beyond us.” The office has been adding Arabic speakers and other interpreters that can speak to these latest migrants.
The staff is committed to meeting the needs of those who show up at their door, many of whom have few resources and are often traumatized by their journeys. Deacon Danny Rodriguez, another outreach coordinator, said much of their help consists of providing legal services and connecting families with services for their children. “We try to go through it with them, give them a sense of comfort, [a] sense of welcoming because a lot of them are scared… They don’t know what’s the next step.”