A little over a year ago, the Bloomberg administration attempted to impose strict eligibility requirements for homeless single adults seeking shelter. Today, homeless New Yorkers won an important legal victory when the Appellate Court released a decision declaring this attempt unlawful and in violation of the City's proper rule-making procedure. This decision confirms an earlier decision made in New York Supreme Court.
Below are statements from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma, the Legal Aid Society, and the Coalition for the Homeless on this much-welcome decision:
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Joint Statement by Speaker Christine C. Quinn and General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma:
“Today’s unanimous Court ruling, which affirms the trial court’s decision declaring unlawful the Department of Homeless Services’ attempt to impose eligibility requirements for single homeless adults, is a tremendous victory and we commend the Court for its action. The Council has long argued that DHS’ proposed policy would have needlessly put thousands of homeless New Yorkers on the streets by requiring them to provide proof they have nowhere else to stay. This was a wrong-headed policy that puts a burden of proof on people who could least shoulder it.
“Our city’s homeless people need to be helped – not hindered – in their efforts to locate shelter. The Court’s confirmation that policy changes such as this one must be subject to public notice and comment will ensure that we will be able to work with DHS to create a new policy that will protect, not hurt, the City's homeless. Moreover, this decision is a victory for all New Yorkers, because it reaffirms that the administration cannot ignore Charter provisions that require agencies to be transparent and accountable to the public. We would like to thank Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless for their tireless work on this case and for homeless New Yorkers every day.”
Statement by Steve Banks, Attorney-in-Chief, The Legal Aid Society:
“Today’s ruling will protect vulnerable women and men from being denied shelter under the Department of Homeless Services' proposed new shelter denial plan. It should not have required litigation to stop this plan that would have resulted in women and men in need of shelter being turned away when they seek help from the Department of Homeless Services. We greatly appreciate the leadership of the Speaker and the City Council in this matter.”
Statement by Mary Brosnahan, President and CEO, Coalition for the Homeless:
“Today’s ruling is a victory for sanity and decency. The Bloomberg administration’s attempt to block access to vital shelter would have relegated many more people to sleep on the streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces in the middle of winter.
“Over 30 years ago, then Mayor Ed Koch entered into a landmark agreement with the Coalition to provide emergency shelter for those with nowhere else to turn. The City and the Coalition agreed specifically that no unnecessary restrictions be placed in accessing shelter, as a large segment of homeless New Yorkers on the streets would be deterred from coming in and getting the help they need.
“Rather than continue this misguided crusade to leave our neighbors in the cold, Mayor Bloomberg must focus instead on the proven and cost-effective policy of his predecessors: investing in affordable housing assistance. With a record 49,000 people sleeping tonight in shelters – including 20,000 children – Mayor Bloomberg must shift course immediately.”