NEW YORK - For almost a week, hundreds of migrants have been sleeping outside a former school in the East Village that has been serving as a reticketing center.
Once adult migrants have been living in a shelter for 30 days, they must go to the school to re-apply for a shelter bed. But some migrants have been afraid to lose their spot in line, so they have been sleeping outside in the freezing temperatures.
"Our team was out there and saw yesterday morning even, there were 100 people that had slept overnight," Kathryn Kliff, from the Legal Aid Society said. "People have had to go to the hospital for hypothermia, which is very concerning."
But late Wednesday night, Legal Aid said that the city began to implement a new policy to encourage migrants to go inside to wait. Once inside, they will get a ticket that will let them return to their spot in line – and it seems to be working since the line was empty Thursday afternoon.
But many migrants say they are very confused by this process and the tickets are more like wristbands.
Two men we met from Venezuela say they have been applying for a shelter bed for 3 days now – returning each day to see if a bed is open.
The men said they are staying at a holding site in the Bronx, which is more of a waiting area, not a shelter, and then return back in line every day. And they are not the only ones.
"Sometimes we sleep in the park," another migrant told FOX 5 NY outside the reticketing site. "It's so cold, we don’t have clothes."
This group of men say they have been trying to get a shelter bed again for over a week and don’t understand the wristbands.
The city says that only around 20 percent of migrants return to the East Village reticketing site after their 30-day shelter limit is up, but they also admit that things are constantly changing.
The Mayor’s chief of staff, Camille Joseph Varlack, says that FEMA has been pressuring the city for a long-term plan for how they plan to care for migrants in the winter. But she says they are asking the wrong questions.
"It just sets the wrong tone," Varlack said. "When it comes down to it this is a national crisis and New York City should not be carrying this on our backs."
The city says just last week, more than 2,700 migrants arrived in New York City.
In the meantime, Texas governor Greg Abbott posted to social media yesterday saying he plans to send even more migrants to sanctuary cities, including here to New York.