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Exclusive: NYC social services commissioner Gary Jenkins addresses struggles to help migrants being sent from Texas

Exclusive: NYC social services commissioner discusses migrant crisis
Exclusive: NYC social services commissioner discusses migrant crisis 02:34

NEW YORK -- New York City's homeless crisis is being exacerbated by the influx of thousands of migrants sent here from Texas.

CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer sat down for an exclusive interview with social services commissioner Gary Jenkins to find out what he's doing about it.

The numbers are astounding -- nearly 6,000 migrants arriving here by busloads, sent by the Texas governor to be taken care of by New York City.

Now it's up to Jenkins to feed, clothe and find accommodations for them.

"When the buses come in, we can take anywhere between 10 and 100 people daily. So that's on top of our existing homeless population," Jenkins said.

In an exclusive interview with CBS2, Jenkins, who was once homeless himself, talked about the magnitude of the problem. The migrants, many of whom don't speak English, are taxing a system already coping with 50,000 homeless people in the city shelters every single night.

"They're getting off the bus dehydrated. Some need medical attention ... Imagine traveling from Texas on a bus with limited resources, and they're coming to New York City, getting off that bus with nothing," Jenkins said.


Jenkins told CBS2 the city has already opened 13 hotels to provide extra beds, but so many people need a roof over their heads that the Adams administration has issued an emergency solicitation seeking bids for up to 5,000 units in commercial hotels and other facilities that have to be able to provide services on 24-hours notice.

"We want to make sure that the provider that applies can provide appropriate services to these individuals because they're coming to us, Marcia, right, with a lot of challenges," Jenkins said.

The commissioner says the Adams administration is also committed to helping the migrants with job training and schools for their children, but there is considerable consternation about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to send the migrants here.

"This was unprecedented. This was not planned at all. We did not know that the governor, you know, Governor Abbott, was going to start, you know, start shipping people, which is so cruel, to New York City," Jenkins said.

But this is New York City, so no one will be turned away.

"And if more migrants come to the city in the next weeks and months?" Kramer asked.

"Open arms," Jenkins said.

Watch: NYC social services commissioner addresses DOI probe

Exclusive: NYC social services commissioner addresses DOI probe 03:19

Meanwhile, Jenkins finds himself at the center of a Department of Investigation probe into whether migrant families were treated properly at a Bronx intake center known as PATH and whether he tried to cover it up.

It is alleged they may have stayed longer than they should have, which is a violation of the law.

"We unfortunately fell down and did not meet our legal mandate," Jenkins said.

Families must be placed by 4 a.m., a law passed years ago when the center was notorious for making people sleep on the floor for days.

Watch the full interview

Exclusive interview with NYC social services commissioner Gary Jenkins 34:43

The DOI probe began after a top official charged that Jenkins sought to conceal that four families slept in the intake office overnight. The official, press spokesman Julia Savel, texted a colleague in the mayor's press office that "...Gary was trying to not tell City Hall that we broke the law."

"It's false. That is a false allegation," Jenkins said. "Within an hour, I let the deputy mayor know that we had four families at PATH that were not placed by 4 a.m. ... My personality and my work ethic is not to hide anything."

Jenkins says the families only spent a few extra hours at the center and insisted he didn't try to cover it up. He sent a text to Deputy Mayor Ann Williams-Isom as soon as the situation was discovered, telling her, "...I just learned we had some families past the 4 a.m. assignment at PATH."

The story became more complicated because Savel was fired a few weeks after the incident. City Hall sources say the brouhaha over the placement of the migrant families had nothing to do with it and that she had been repeatedly counseled about her performance.

"There's documented instances where she was unprofessional with her peers, her subordinates and with senior management," Jenkins said.

Savel, who refused to do an interview because of the DOI probe, insisted she is telling the truth.

"My performance was never in question," she said in a statement. "During the time I worked for the city, I held truth, transparency, and decency above all else until the day I was unjustly fired."

"It was not in the agency's best interest to keep her employed with the agency," Jenkins said.

Late Thursday, the city disclosed that it had found another instance of a family not  being placed in a shelter by the deadline. Since the buses from Texas began arriving, shelter has been found for nearly 6,000 people.

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