MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — For many asylum seekers, the first step to getting help involves sleeping on the sidewalk outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, before engaging in a chance conversation with an aid volunteer to find out what may come next.
“[I’ve] been here for two, going on three days,” Eric, an asylum seeker from Venezuela, said through an interpreter. “The organization here has been helpful, and [I’m] waiting to get served.”
Multiply this encounter by around 56,000 asylum seekers currently in or seeking shelter in New York City, and you get an idea of how much work goes into outreach and connecting them with services.
Sergio Uzurin is a member of the South Bronx Mutual Aid collective, one of the dozens of home-grown operations doing what it can on a shoestring budget.
“Since August, we’ve been feeding hundreds of migrants a week without any financial reimbursement from the city,” said Uzurin.
Organizer Ariadna Phillips said the collective has so far raised about $13,000 and relies on the support of individual donations.
“In the scope of what we do, it is not a lot of money. We’ve been spending a lot of money out of pocket,” said Phillips.
The collective put those donations to work in real-time through an app and website developed in-house called AyudaNYC. It offers asylum seekers assistance links to various services in several different languages.
“We can say that we’ve fielded, at this point, hundreds of thousands of folks that are either accessing it or reaching out directly for support. We try to meet people where they’re at,” said Phillips.
At the Roosevelt Hotel, Uzurin offered some assistance to Eric, the Venezuelan asylum seeker who is at his wit’s end.
“The only thing I have right now is my patience,” said Eric.