“The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions, and in such manner and by such means, as the legislature may from time to time determine.”

shelterssavelives

Hear stories from homeless New Yorkers living in NYC shelters.

These words, from Article XVII of the New York State Constitution, formed the basis of the argument made by the founders of the Coalition for the Homeless when they filed the Callahan v. Carey lawsuit: That New York has a legal obligation to provide basic shelter to anyone who lacks a safe place to sleep. 

On December 5, 1979, while this lawsuit was still being argued, the New York State Supreme Court issued its first injunction ordering the City and State to provide shelter for homeless men – the first milestone in a series of critical victories by the Coalition and The Legal Aid Society that later extended the right to shelter to single women and to families. 

Today, on the 38th anniversary of that first ruling and 36 years after the Callahan Consent Decree was ultimately signed, we celebrate the landmark ruling that has saved more than a million New Yorkers from the perils of living on the street.

December 5 has thus been designated as “Right to Shelter Day,” when we acknowledge the tremendous impact of this critical right.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the 1982 Eldredge v. Koch case, in which the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the Callahan decree must be applied to homeless women – thereby extending the right to safe, clean shelters.

Tonight, as a result of this victory, 4,211 single adult homeless women will be able to sleep with a roof over their heads rather than on the cold streets. The need has never been greater: The percentage of all homeless adults that are women has grown from 35 percent to nearly 50 percent over the past four decades, largely due to the increase in homeless families headed by women.

Listen to some homeless women discuss what the right to shelter means to them here.

New York City is the only place in the country with such a robust right to shelter, which is why we do not have the massive, heartbreaking tent encampments commonly found in so many other large cities. 

The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that on a single night in 2016, an impressive 96 percent of the 73,523 homeless people in New York City were sheltered, compared with only 25 percent of the 43,854 homeless people in Los Angeles.

A shelter is of course not a permanent home, and so the Coalition consistently advocates for the proven, housing-based solutions that are the only real, long-term answer to modern mass homelessness. But for those who do find themselves without a home, the guarantee of a safe, warm place to sleep at night provides the necessary foundation to help them piece their lives back together. As harsh winter weather descends upon the city, the right to shelter guarantees lifesaving protection from the elements for our homeless neighbors.

On Right to Shelter Day, we encourage you to learn about this important legal milestone and hear from some of the men, women, and children who have benefitted from the vital safety net provided by our fine and compassionate city.

My Right to Shelter

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Rhonda, Watch the Video

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Madge, Watch the Video

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Charmaine, Read more

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Angela, Watch the Video

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By SSM, Read more

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Kenneth, Read more

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Kevin, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Mike, Watch the Video

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Francenia, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Stephanie, Watch the video

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Louis, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By MH, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Jennira, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Lamont, Read more

History

Judge to Hear Suit On Derelict Shelter

Saturday, October 27, 1979 By The City, The New York Times

A judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to force city and state officials to provide shelter for derelicts during winter....Read more

The First Court Decision in Callahan v. Carey Requiring the Provision of Shelter for Homeless Men in New York City

Wednesday, December 5, 1979 Read the Decision

Following is the text of the December 5, 1979, decision in Callahan v. Carey, the class action litigation brought by Coalition for the Homeless that established a legal right to shelter for homeless individuals in New York City....Read more

A State Justice Orders Creation of 750 Beds For Bowery Homeless

Sunday, December 9, 1979 By Charles Kaiser, The New York Times

A State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan has ordered the city and the state to create 750 new beds for the “helpless and hopeless men of the Bowery.”...Read more

Callahan v. Carey - Amended Complaint

Wednesday, April 30, 1980 Read more

The Callahan v. Carey amended complaint addressed horrible conditions experienced by 10K+ homeless men in 1979-80...Read more

The Callahan Consent Decree

Monday, August 3, 1981 Read the decree

Following is the complete text of the 1981 consent decree in Callahan v. Carey, the class action litigation brought by Coalition for the Homeless that established a legal right to shelter for homeless individuals in New York City....Read more

Pact Requires City To Shelter Homeless Men

Thursday, August 27, 1981 By Robin Herman, The New York Times

New York City must provide clean and safe shelter to every homeless man who seeks it, according to an agreement signed in State Supreme Court yesterday by city and state officials and a lawyer for six homeless men who sued for that commitment nearly two years ago....Read more

Opinion: Hysteria and the Homeless

Monday, August 31, 1981 The New York Times

Under terms of the agreement, the city and the state will provide clean and safe shelter for every homeless person who asks for it. The agreement also bans overcrowding at the city's expanded shelter on Wards Island, at a large shelter in the Catskills and at Bowery hotels where men are sent after processing at the Men's Shelter....Read more

Callahan v. Carey, No. 79-42582

By ESCR-Net, Read more

Cases of severe hypothermia and death among homeless dropped dramatically after the decree....Read more

Eldredge v. Koch

Monday, February 1, 1982 Read more

In February 1982, a new case was brought on behalf of homeless women, Eldredge v. Koch. The New York State Supreme Court ruled that the Callahan decree must be applied to shelters for homeless women....Read more

Eldredge v. Koch Appellate Decision

Tuesday, December 20, 1983 Read more

On appeal, the Appellate Division ruled that more evidence was needed on the question of specific violations (the City reduced shelter capacities and increased plumbing facilities after the case was filed), but affirmed that the Callahan decree applies to homeless women. ...Read more

Ellen Baxter

By Coalition for the Homeless, Safety Net Newsletter - Autumn 2004

"Homelessness reveals a gaping schism in the principle of justice in New York City where we certainly have the expertise and resources to fulfill the right of people to housing” - Ellen Baxter ...Read more

Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion For an Order Enforcing the Consent Decree

Read more

Since 1981, the Coalition for the Homeless has fought to make sure the city honors the legal right to shelter and ends unsafe & inhumane practices....Read more

Today's Read: Behind New York's Right to Shelter Policy

By Jacquelyn Simone, Coalition for the Homeless

The right to shelter was established in 1979, when the lawyer Robert Hayes teamed up with Kim Hopper, Ellen Baxter and other activists to bring a class-action lawsuit on behalf of homeless New Yorkers (and to found the Coalition for the Homeless). ...Read more

The Callahan Legacy: Callahan v. Carey and the Legal Right to Shelter

By Coalition for the Homeless, Read more

The landmark victory in the 1979 lawsuit Callahan v. Carey paved the way for further legal victories that ensured the right to shelter for homeless men, women, children, and families in New York City....Read more

State Mandated Code Blue Still Raising Questions

By Matthew Hamilton, The Times Union

"There is a constitutional obligation in New York to provide aid and care for those in need, particularly during cold or inclement weather, and this has not changed since last year," Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said recently. ...Read more

Learn more about the right to shelter and join us in the fight to end homelessness.

• Join our online community and receive monthly news on homelessness in NYC, updates on the Coalition’s advocacy efforts and ways you can get involved and take action.

• Learn about easy actions you can take to support homeless New Yorkers today.

• Volunteer as a shelter monitor. The Coalition serves as the official court-appointed monitor for the New York City single adult shelter system. Our volunteers assist our Shelter Specialist in performing inspections of more than 80 municipal shelters. A monitor must be 18 years or older, available some evenings and weekends, and complete an individual training session.

• Read our full advocacy library or browse our comprehensive reports and policy briefs – including our 2017 State of the Homeless report – which analyze a wide range of issues involving homelessness, including affordable housing policy, family homelessness, mental health issues, welfare reform, and the New York City shelter system.

About

“The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions, and in such manner and by such means, as the legislature may from time to time determine.”

shelterssavelives

Hear stories from homeless New Yorkers living in NYC shelters.

These words, from Article XVII of the New York State Constitution, formed the basis of the argument made by the founders of the Coalition for the Homeless when they filed the Callahan v. Carey lawsuit: That New York has a legal obligation to provide basic shelter to anyone who lacks a safe place to sleep. 

On December 5, 1979, while this lawsuit was still being argued, the New York State Supreme Court issued its first injunction ordering the City and State to provide shelter for homeless men – the first milestone in a series of critical victories by the Coalition and The Legal Aid Society that later extended the right to shelter to single women and to families. 

Today, on the 38th anniversary of that first ruling and 36 years after the Callahan Consent Decree was ultimately signed, we celebrate the landmark ruling that has saved more than a million New Yorkers from the perils of living on the street.

December 5 has thus been designated as “Right to Shelter Day,” when we acknowledge the tremendous impact of this critical right.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the 1982 Eldredge v. Koch case, in which the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the Callahan decree must be applied to homeless women – thereby extending the right to safe, clean shelters.

Tonight, as a result of this victory, 4,211 single adult homeless women will be able to sleep with a roof over their heads rather than on the cold streets. The need has never been greater: The percentage of all homeless adults that are women has grown from 35 percent to nearly 50 percent over the past four decades, largely due to the increase in homeless families headed by women.

Listen to some homeless women discuss what the right to shelter means to them here.

New York City is the only place in the country with such a robust right to shelter, which is why we do not have the massive, heartbreaking tent encampments commonly found in so many other large cities. 

The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that on a single night in 2016, an impressive 96 percent of the 73,523 homeless people in New York City were sheltered, compared with only 25 percent of the 43,854 homeless people in Los Angeles.

A shelter is of course not a permanent home, and so the Coalition consistently advocates for the proven, housing-based solutions that are the only real, long-term answer to modern mass homelessness. But for those who do find themselves without a home, the guarantee of a safe, warm place to sleep at night provides the necessary foundation to help them piece their lives back together. As harsh winter weather descends upon the city, the right to shelter guarantees lifesaving protection from the elements for our homeless neighbors.

On Right to Shelter Day, we encourage you to learn about this important legal milestone and hear from some of the men, women, and children who have benefitted from the vital safety net provided by our fine and compassionate city.

My Right to Shelter

My Right to Shelter

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Rhonda, Watch the Video

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Madge, Watch the Video

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Charmaine, Read more

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Angela, Watch the Video

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By SSM, Read more

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Kenneth, Read more

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 By Kevin, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Mike, Watch the Video

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Francenia, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Stephanie, Watch the video

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Louis, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By MH, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Jennira, Read more

Monday, December 5, 2016 By Lamont, Read more

History

History

Judge to Hear Suit On Derelict Shelter

Saturday, October 27, 1979 By The City, The New York Times

A judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to force city and state officials to provide shelter for derelicts during winter....Read more

The First Court Decision in Callahan v. Carey Requiring the Provision of Shelter for Homeless Men in New York City

Wednesday, December 5, 1979 Read the Decision

Following is the text of the December 5, 1979, decision in Callahan v. Carey, the class action litigation brought by Coalition for the Homeless that established a legal right to shelter for homeless individuals in New York City....Read more

A State Justice Orders Creation of 750 Beds For Bowery Homeless

Sunday, December 9, 1979 By Charles Kaiser, The New York Times

A State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan has ordered the city and the state to create 750 new beds for the “helpless and hopeless men of the Bowery.”...Read more

Callahan v. Carey - Amended Complaint

Wednesday, April 30, 1980 Read more

The Callahan v. Carey amended complaint addressed horrible conditions experienced by 10K+ homeless men in 1979-80...Read more

The Callahan Consent Decree

Monday, August 3, 1981 Read the decree

Following is the complete text of the 1981 consent decree in Callahan v. Carey, the class action litigation brought by Coalition for the Homeless that established a legal right to shelter for homeless individuals in New York City....Read more

Pact Requires City To Shelter Homeless Men

Thursday, August 27, 1981 By Robin Herman, The New York Times

New York City must provide clean and safe shelter to every homeless man who seeks it, according to an agreement signed in State Supreme Court yesterday by city and state officials and a lawyer for six homeless men who sued for that commitment nearly two years ago....Read more

Opinion: Hysteria and the Homeless

Monday, August 31, 1981 The New York Times

Under terms of the agreement, the city and the state will provide clean and safe shelter for every homeless person who asks for it. The agreement also bans overcrowding at the city's expanded shelter on Wards Island, at a large shelter in the Catskills and at Bowery hotels where men are sent after processing at the Men's Shelter....Read more

Callahan v. Carey, No. 79-42582

By ESCR-Net, Read more

Cases of severe hypothermia and death among homeless dropped dramatically after the decree....Read more

Eldredge v. Koch

Monday, February 1, 1982 Read more

In February 1982, a new case was brought on behalf of homeless women, Eldredge v. Koch. The New York State Supreme Court ruled that the Callahan decree must be applied to shelters for homeless women....Read more

Eldredge v. Koch Appellate Decision

Tuesday, December 20, 1983 Read more

On appeal, the Appellate Division ruled that more evidence was needed on the question of specific violations (the City reduced shelter capacities and increased plumbing facilities after the case was filed), but affirmed that the Callahan decree applies to homeless women. ...Read more

Ellen Baxter

By Coalition for the Homeless, Safety Net Newsletter - Autumn 2004

"Homelessness reveals a gaping schism in the principle of justice in New York City where we certainly have the expertise and resources to fulfill the right of people to housing” - Ellen Baxter ...Read more

Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion For an Order Enforcing the Consent Decree

Read more

Since 1981, the Coalition for the Homeless has fought to make sure the city honors the legal right to shelter and ends unsafe & inhumane practices....Read more

Today's Read: Behind New York's Right to Shelter Policy

By Jacquelyn Simone, Coalition for the Homeless

The right to shelter was established in 1979, when the lawyer Robert Hayes teamed up with Kim Hopper, Ellen Baxter and other activists to bring a class-action lawsuit on behalf of homeless New Yorkers (and to found the Coalition for the Homeless). ...Read more

The Callahan Legacy: Callahan v. Carey and the Legal Right to Shelter

By Coalition for the Homeless, Read more

The landmark victory in the 1979 lawsuit Callahan v. Carey paved the way for further legal victories that ensured the right to shelter for homeless men, women, children, and families in New York City....Read more

State Mandated Code Blue Still Raising Questions

By Matthew Hamilton, The Times Union

"There is a constitutional obligation in New York to provide aid and care for those in need, particularly during cold or inclement weather, and this has not changed since last year," Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said recently. ...Read more

Take Action

Learn more about the right to shelter and join us in the fight to end homelessness.

• Join our online community and receive monthly news on homelessness in NYC, updates on the Coalition’s advocacy efforts and ways you can get involved and take action.

• Learn about easy actions you can take to support homeless New Yorkers today.

• Volunteer as a shelter monitor. The Coalition serves as the official court-appointed monitor for the New York City single adult shelter system. Our volunteers assist our Shelter Specialist in performing inspections of more than 80 municipal shelters. A monitor must be 18 years or older, available some evenings and weekends, and complete an individual training session.

• Read our full advocacy library or browse our comprehensive reports and policy briefs – including our 2017 State of the Homeless report – which analyze a wide range of issues involving homelessness, including affordable housing policy, family homelessness, mental health issues, welfare reform, and the New York City shelter system.

More than 35 years ago, the Coalition for the Homeless guaranteed the legal right to shelter in NYC with the Callahan Consent Decree. Since then, over a million homeless New Yorkers have been given a way off the streets.