A second migrant has died by suicide in a Queens homeless shelter, city officials said Tuesday.
Speaking at a City Council hearing on Tuesday morning, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams confirmed a 26-year-old asylum-seeker died by suicide.
“The city has a responsibility to improve conditions across the shelter system to help prevent tragedies like this from occurring,” she said, without providing further details.
NBC New York first reported the man’s suicide on Monday, citing law enforcement and other unnamed sources. The publication reported the man was found in the shelter bathroom by his partner and was then rushed to the hospital, where he was declared dead last Wednesday.
It wasn’t immediately clear where in Queens the death occurred. Stephen Witt, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Services, confirmed the suicide occurred but declined to provide specifics, calling the situation an “absolutely heartbreaking tragedy.”
“We are working closely with the family to support them during this incredibly difficult time,” Witt said in a statement. “We recognize the very unique challenges asylum-seekers are facing and we remain committed to continuing to build on our ongoing efforts and interagency coordination to connect these families and individuals to mental health supports as we help them stabilize their lives in a new country.”
“This is painful,” tweeted Councilmember Shahana Hanif, who chairs the Council’s immigration committee. “We're not doing enough. We need more investments and expand available programs… to avoid future tragedies.”
Last fiscal year, the deadliest year on record for homeless New Yorkers, 12 shelter residents died by suicide. Just one of those suicides took place inside a shelter, according to an annual report from the city’s health department.
New York City has received more than 31,000 asylum-seekers arriving from the southern border since the spring, most of whom are residing in city shelters, according to Mayor Eric Adams’ office.
The city has opened 62 emergency shelters in recent months to meet the unprecedented need, while the number of people sleeping in city shelters each night has ballooned to historic highs, with more than 64,000 people as of Sunday night.
While the number of people arriving each day had tapered off in recent weeks, Adams warned over the weekend that the city was bracing for another surge in arrivals as the fate of a federal rule that clamped down on border crossings during a public health emergency hangs in the balance.
The Trump-era immigration edict allowed authorities to expel more than 2 million asylum-seekers at the borders since it went into effect in 2020, under a public health rationale due to COVID-19.
The rule was slated to expire on Wednesday, but on Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts granted a stay that will leave the rule in place temporarily. If and when the rule is lifted, Adams has said the city could see around 1,000 new arrivals each week and might have to reopen the shuttered tent encampment on Randall's Island.
Adams has made repeated overtures to state and federal authorities for financial help supporting the new arrivals, which the Independent Budget Office has estimated will cost the city $374 million by the end of the fiscal year.