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Help to anyone who needs it, always

Amid an emergency situation, The Floating Hospital still maintains its mission: to be a safety net and source of support for those who need help.

A family of five recently arrived at The Floating Hospital from a village in Honduras, in an area where much of the population is indigenous and divided by tribes. This family is Garifuna, a tribe with its own culture, its own dialect. The husband and wife made the arduous three-month trek with their three children, one of whom is autistic. They came to us seeking relief.

“When someone comes to us, I welcome them and try to help with whatever they need,” said Iván Romero, The Floating Hospital’s director for families in temporary housing.

Romero has been welcoming families to our clinic for the nearly thirty years he’s worked at The Floating Hospital. “Families come to us at one of the most difficult periods in their lives, challenged emotionally, socially and financially.”

Since September, over 17,000 migrants have arrived in New York City—and that number continues to increase. Even with this surge, “we are remaining true to our beliefs,” said Sean Granahan, Esq., The Floating Hospital’s president and general counsel. “We are offering them the help that they need.”

Families are making the journey from Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and other Latin American countries. “They’re leaving behind violent situations, political unrest and other dire issues,” Romero explained.

They’ve been arriving without money, food, medicine, personal care items—and with only the clothes that they’re wearing. They’re ill-prepared for the impending cold weather.

“Many have encountered horrific circumstances during their journeys here,” explains Romero. “Some have walked through swamps to get here. But even with the calamities they’ve experienced, there is positivity, too. When they get placed in a shelter and have running water and electricity, it is a victory for them. They are very appreciative.”

Since the early 1980s, New York City has had a “right to shelter” in place, meaning that anyone experiencing homelessness can find shelter through the city’s shelter system. This is an obligation The Floating Hospital not only believes in but also has embraced. Since it was founded in 1866 during another historic wave of immigration its singular purpose has been to help and to serve the city’s poorest families.

Although The Floating Hospital continues to be a haven for anyone who needs us, in these unusual circumstances we are facing significant obstacles. Our usual inventory of necessities to help these asylum-seekers has been depleted and the cost of our free patient care has nearly doubled.

In October, New York City’s Homeless Services Department released a report that explains how there are more people living in New York City’s shelters than there have been in decades. The Coalition for the Homeless’ records also reveal that the current level of homelessness has been unparalleled since the early 1980s.

At last count there were 55,036 homeless sleeping in New York City shelters*. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, at a recent press conference, said that the city could see 100,000 new migrants by the end of 2022.

Yet amid these challenges, we are hopeful. “We’ve been receiving donations and recently received a large donation of warm clothes,” said Dr. Meghan Miller, The Floating Hospital’s director of health education.

No matter what is happening, however, the reality is that The Floating Hospital has always been a source of support for those who need help.

“We’ve been providing to migrants and immigrants since 1866,” said Granahan, “and we are treating this situation in the same way we have since then. We are here to help anyone who needs it. That’s been our mantra for 156 years.”

*Coalition for the Homeless, State of the Homeless 2022

This post featured in our monthly newsletter from October 2022.

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The Floating Hospital provides high-quality healthcare to anyone who needs it regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, immigration or insurance status, or the ability to pay. By providing unrestricted medical care in tandem with health education and social support to vulnerable New York City families, The Floating Hospital aims to ensure those most in need have the ability to thrive, not just survive.


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