Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a guide originally produced by THE CITY in December 2022 and republished in November 2023 with up-to-date information. Additional reporting by Gwynne Hogan and Tanaz Meghjani.

More than a year after sudden waves of asylum-seeking people began arriving in New York by the thousands every week, the influx of migrants continues — and with them come significant needs for shelter and other help.

As City Hall has struggled to comply with its right-to-shelter mandate, a network of charities, volunteers and mutual aid workers have been scrambling to house, feed and assist the desperate new arrivals. From spring 2022 through fall 2023, more than 146,000 migrants have come through the city’s shelter system, according to the mayor’s office.

Because the needs are so massive, Ariadna Phillips of South Bronx Mutual Aid said “there’s room for everybody” to help.

Asylum seeker Rosybelth Lianres picked up her daughters, Sara, 6, and Skarleth, 4, on the Upper West Side, Sept. 8, 2022. Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

“You don't have to be a certain type of person or have a certain type of partnership to make this happen. Like, you can set up a donation box in a classroom and ask students, your colleagues, your staff to collect warm coats and hats,” she said. “And there are so many different sites right now where asylum seekers are sheltering that you could just bring a box and it will be gone in a matter of minutes. Because that's the level of need.”

Wondering how you personally can help? THE CITY spoke with people across the five boroughs who are assisting migrants in getting what they need right now. Here are some ways to assist them:

Give Money

Cash rules. Starting last year, the city government pointed New Yorkers who wanted to help financially to the United Way NYC’s Emergency Assistance and Community Needs fund. You can read more about the fund here or donate directly here.

The group has raised over $780,000 so far and funded dozens of organizations who are responding to the migrant crisis directly — including Team TLC NYC, Artists-Athletes-Activists, Make the Road, Gambian Youth Organization, Masa and El Puente.

You can also donate directly to organizations doing relief work. At Team TLC, director Ilze Thielmann said “we always need money,” but donors often find it “a lot more satisfying” to donate via their two online wishlists.

“We have registries where people, instead of sending us $200 or $300, they can buy coats for X number of people and have them shipped directly to us,” she said.

“It's always like Christmas when boxes of donations show up,” she added.

At South Bronx Mutual Aid — which is constantly triaging help requests in multiple languages through social media, phone calls and their web app AyudaNYC as well as helping to run multiple sanctuary emergency shelter sites — Phillips said recurring, monthly donations are “a big deal.”

“We get very excited about those because that translates into, ‘Great I've got powdered milk for the month, guaranteed, for the baby.’ Or, we've got diapers for the month. Or we've got what we need every week in the sanctuary.”

Donate Items

Across the board, relief workers THE CITY spoke with said winter clothing is desperately needed right now. Winter coats, especially, are critical, but gloves, hats, scarves, thick socks and “practical shoes,” said Theilmann of Team TLC.

“Some of these people are still wearing flip-flops,” she said.

Bags of donated clothes sat at the Central Family Life Center, Oct. 21, 2022. Credit: Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

As THE CITY has previously reported, families living in the tent shelter at Floyd Bennett Field often arrive without proper cold-weather clothes, and swaddle their children in bedsheets as low temperatures settled in over the week of Thanksgiving.

To help that shelter specifically, Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse (D-Brooklyn) is holding a winter coat drive for Floyd Bennett Field through Dec. 8. Contact her district office for more information at (718) 241-9330.

Theilmann warned that relief groups can’t do much with other types of clothing donations, like summer outfits, prom dresses and a child’s wetsuit she saw donated recently.

“We're not taking any more donations of anything that's not really warm — other than T-shirts, which are always useful,” she said.

Grace Bonilla, president and CEO of United Way of New York City, says “the most critical material needs for migrants revolve around ensuring their warmth, shelter, and sustenance.”

“Blankets, warm clothing, and winter coats are needed to protect against the harsh weather conditions. Additionally, non-perishable food items, children's toys, new underwear, and hygiene essentials remain crucial,” she said by email.

The Open Hearts Initiative, a nonprofit founded in response to housing instability during the pandemic, organizes relief efforts for individual shelters in various neighborhoods. The Marlene Meyerson JCC in Manhattan organizes donation drives and other events periodically, such as this donated-clothing sorting session in early December.

Faith-based donation centers in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island continue to take donations, according to the Mayor’s Fund for New York City. Contact information and hours of operation for the donation centers can be found here. (Previously listed donation sites in The Bronx and Manhattan are no longer accepting donations, a spokesperson for City Hall said.)

Share Your Skills and Time

There also are a number of ways to directly help migrants through volunteering, particularly if you have legal training, access to a car or know specific languages, relief workers said.

People who have a vehicle and can spend time driving would be really helpful to volunteers who get emergency requests constantly from asylum-seekers, or from within relief groups trying to move donations around, said Phillips.

“Sometimes we just need a break. We're going non-stop,” she said. “We're like, do you just want to help us hand out meals for a couple hours? That would be awesome. Do you have a car? You can just sit in your car. You can stay in your car. Do you have a baby, and you have a car? You can just sit in your car with your baby! But if you could help us transport this, that would be amazing.”

People who can volunteer at night, in particular, are like “unicorns,” Phillips said, and much-needed.

Translation skills are also in high demand, in Spanish as well as French, Pulaar and Wolof to serve the thousands of migrants from West Africa who have come from their home countries through the southern border and then arrived in New York.

City officials erected a temporary shelter on Randall’s Island for single men migrating into the country, Oct. 18, 2022. Credit: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

At Team TLC, the group needs people with legal expertise, who can do clerical work or could manage clinics designed to teach the asylum seekers how to represent themselves pro se in court. The group also holds workshops to teach non-attorneys how to help migrants with asylum applications.

“Those applications really don't require a lawyer to fill them out. They do require someone who has some experience with it to do it efficiently,” she said.

To find out about volunteer options with Team TLC, click here. To volunteer with South Bronx Mutual Aid, click here. For more volunteer opportunities through the United Way of New York City, click here.

Sponsorship of Shelters

Last year, UWNYC had begun to coordinate with companies that want to cover the needs of an entire shelter where migrants are housed. At the time, relief workers requested that type of help so they can more quickly get direct aid when specific needs arise.

Bonilla of United Way said that work continues, and corporate donors should get in touch with the organization if they are able to give on that scale.

“We are proud to partner with the Department of Social Services and happy to connect interested companies in supporting specific shelters or citywide collections for essential items,” she said.