I Have a Shelter Problem

Below is some brief information about some of the problems clients can encounter when applying for or residing in shelter. If you require additional assistance or your shelter problem is not listed below, please come in to speak with an advocate in the Crisis Intervention Program.

We are a family with children having problems accessing shelter.

You have a right to shelter if you have no other safe, available housing option. You must be allowed to apply for shelter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For information on where to apply for shelter or the documents you will need in order to apply, please click here.

When you apply for shelter, you will meet with a diversion worker who will try to help you avoid entering shelter. This worker may offer you assistance with benefits, relocation assistance, or discuss with you any options to locate permanent housing. This worker is not part of the shelter application process. You still have a right to apply for shelter no matter what is discussed in diversion. Click here for more information about your rights with respect to diversion.

If you are still in need of shelter after speaking with diversion, you will meet with a family worker who will ask you where you have lived in the past two years. Be sure to tell the worker where you stayed but also why you had to leave.

You will be provided with shelter that night and for approximately the next 10 days. During this time, PATH will investigate your eligibility. They will visit and call places you have stayed, your family and people you have lived with to see if there are any housing options available to you. You may also be given appointments to return to PATH during this time.

At the end of the 10 days DHS will make a decision about your eligibility for shelter. If you are not found eligible, you have the right to reapply any time with no waiting period. However, the City can deny shelter to some families when they believe another housing option is available. If you need assistance with your application for shelter, come into the Crisis Intervention Program.

The City MUST give you shelter when you re-apply if:

  • You or your child would be in immediate danger if you do not receive shelter (including for medical reasons).
  • You have new facts, information, or documents, or something has changed.
  • You (or the primary tenant) have just been evicted from the last place you stayed.
  • Your child is the victim of child abuse, and the abuser lives in the last place you stayed or can find your child.
  • You are a domestic violence victim, and your abuser lives in the last place you lived or can find you.
  • You are re-applying more than 90 days after last having been found ineligible for shelter.

The City must also give you shelter if you were found ineligible because:

  • You “failed to cooperate.”
  • You “failed to demonstrate that you are a family unit.”
  • You had to miss appointments at PATH.
  • You were “logged out” before your application was decided.

If the City finds you ineligible when you re-apply but you have a shelter placement, or if you receive a discharge notice, are threatened with loss of shelter, or are denied shelter when you seek it, come into the Crisis Intervention Program as soon as possible. You can also read more regarding your rights during the application process.

We are a couple without children having problems accessing shelter.

You have a right to apply for shelter if you have no other safe, available housing option. You must be allowed to apply for shelter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information on where to apply for shelter or the documents you will need in order to apply, please click here.

When you apply for shelter, you will submit documents proving your family status and identity at the triage windows. If you are missing any of the required documents, the AFIC should help you to gather the documents you need to apply, and should give you a place to sleep, for a short time, while you gather this paperwork. If you need additional assistance in gathering required documents please visit the Crisis Intervention Program to speak with an advocate.

You will meet with a worker who will also discuss with you where you have lived for the past two years. Be sure to tell the worker where you have lived, but also why you had to leave, highlighting any conditions that were unhealthy or unsafe at prior residences.

You may be provided with shelter that night, depending on the time you arrived at the intake center (if you do not get a placement that night, the Department of Homeless Services might allow you to stay inside the intake center). When you are first placed in shelter, the placement should last for the next 10 days. During this time the AFIC will investigate your eligibility. They will visit and call the places you have stayed, your family and people you have lived with to see if there are any housing options available to you. You may also be given appointments at the AFIC during this time.

At the end of the 10 days DHS will make a decision about your eligibility for shelter. If you are found ineligible, you have the right to re-apply any time with no waiting period. However, the City can deny shelter to families when they re-apply. If you need assistance with your application for shelter, come into the Crisis Intervention Program.

Single adults having problems accessing shelter.

You have a right to apply for and receive shelter if you have no other safe, available housing option. You must be allowed to apply for shelter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information on where to access shelter, please click here.

There is no application process for a single man or woman to receive shelter. You should receive a shelter bed the same day you apply. You also have certain rights in terms of the conditions in shelter and resources the shelter must make available, click here to learn more about your rights in shelter. The staff will gather some demographic information from you and may ask that you meet with a diversion worker who will try to help you avoid entering shelter. This worker may offer you assistance with benefits, relocation assistance, or discuss with you any options to locate permanent housing. This worker is not part of the shelter application and placement process. You still have a right to apply for and receive shelter no matter what is discussed in diversion. Click here for more information about your rights with respect to diversion.

Following placement in shelter, there is roughly a 21 day assessment period during which shelter staff will ask you to come to a number of meetings, including meeting with a psychiatrist, to discuss the reason that you are in need of shelter now. These meetings are intended to help the shelter staff and Department of Homeless Services to understand how they can best help you. Following these meetings, and approximately three weeks in shelter, you may be transferred to a site that may be called your permanent shelter site. The workers here will be focused on helping you come up with a plan to help you leave shelter, including helping you to apply for benefits, complete assessments and applications for housing programs. Click here to learn more about housing programs for which you might qualify.

Some clients report pressure to leave shelter by a specific deadline or to accept placement into a three quarter house or transitional housing by DHS or shelter staff, click here to find out more about the dangerous conditions in three quarter houses and your rights. You have a right to shelter until, working with your case manager and shelter staff, you locate permanent housing. 

However, under Department of Homeless Services rules, shelter residents can be ejected from shelter for a minimum of 30 days if DHS claims that you have not accepted a suitable, available housing option, have been non-compliant in other ways, or have broken a shelter rule. Click here to learn more about sanctions and your rights.

If you are having difficulty accessing shelter, have questions about the shelter system, services available in shelter, or have questions regarding ILP violations or sanctions come into the Crisis Intervention Program.

I have been logged out of my family shelter placement.

If you are a family who has been found eligible for shelter, but has been logged out of your shelter placement, return to PATH to receive a shelter placement for tonight. If you need additional assistance with your shelter placement, come into the Crisis Intervention Program at the Coalition for the Homeless.

What are my rights to a transfer?

The Department of Homeless Services oversees shelter placement and the providers who operate many of the shelters in New York City. While clients have certain rights regarding their shelter placement, DHS also has certain rules regarding transfers that are important for clients to understand.

Shelter Placements and Transfer Requests

If you are homeless in New York City you have a right to apply for shelter – and if you have no where else to go – you have a right to receive a shelter placement. However, DHS is generally not able to accommodate requests for placement in specific shelters or boroughs.

If you have a documented health or safety risk in a specific neighborhood, borough, or at a specific shelter, you have the right to have your needs accommodated. You must present documentation of these risks to the Department of Homeless Services.

Only DHS can authorize shelter transfers.

Transfers by DHS

DHS can transfer you to another site, if necessary, for a number of reasons. They can provide 48 hours notice of a transfer, in which case you can appeal to your shelter or DHS if you disagree. They may also administratively transfer you to another site at their discretion. Administrative transfers cannot be challenged.

If you are transferred, you still have the right to be safe and healthy in your placement. If there is a health or safety risk, get documentation as described above.

You can also read DHS’ transfer policy and download a flyer outlining your rights. If you need help requesting a transfer you can come into the Crisis Intervention Program (create link to Crisis page) to speak with an advocate

I have problems with conditions in my shelter.

Your shelter placement should be safe, healthy and well maintained. If you have concerns regarding the maintenance of your shelter, first tell a shelter staff member about your concerns and write down their response. If conditions do not improve or they are fixed only temporarily, take a few notes including when the problem first began, what the shelter staff have said when you have asked for help, any health problems you or your family have had because of the conditions, and the status of the problem now. Then come in to see an advocate in the Crisis Intervention Program. Your notes are not required, but these details help us to advocate on your behalf.

What is a sanction?

Under Department of Homeless Services rules shelter residents can be ejected from the shelter system for a minimum of 30 days if DHS claims that you did not comply with:

  • An assessment.
  • A social service plan (or “independent living plan”).
  • Housing search requirements.
  • Facility rules concerning health and safety.

Under these rules, you could be ejected from shelter for refusing to open a public assistance case or missing appointments. Coalition for the Homeless will fight to protect your rights.

If you receive a sanction notice, are threatened with loss of shelter, or are denied shelter when you seek it, contact us immediately at 1-855-NYC-CFTH (1-855-692-2384) or walk into the Crisis Intervention Program.

Download our Know Your Rights and “Client Responsibility” fliers.

I'm being pressured to leave my shelter.

You have a right to shelter until, working with your case manager, you are able to locate permanent, affordable housing. However, as described above, DHS can move to terminate your shelter stay if they believe you have broken a shelter rule.

Even if you did not break a shelter rule, it is often the case that shelter residents are given mis-information about how long they can stay in shelter. There are no limits on how long you can stay in shelter, as long as you are following the shelters rules. If you are given a move out date and do not have permanent housing identified, come into the Crisis Intervention Program to speak with an advocate.

The shelter CANNOT force you to leave without either telling you, in writing, that you have broken a shelter rule and provided a document called a Notice of Intent to Sanction, or helping you to find permanent housing.

I’m being pressured to accept a three-quarter house or a room.

What is Illegal housing? (sometimes called “three-quarter housing,” “PA housing” or “transitional housing”)

A three-quarter house often has more than one person per room, in bunk beds, with no secure place to lock up your things, usually no lease, poor conditions and unsafe overcrowding.

Rooms for rent can often be illegal as well. Rooms are most often an empty bedroom or basement in a lease holding tenant’s home. Every landlord does not allow for subleases, so it is important to ask for a lease when considering a room for rent – the arrangements they are offering may not be legal and may put you in danger in the event of an emergency.

It’s important to know that room finders are for profit businesses. The Coalition has received many complaints from clients that they paid money to get help finding a room, but were not ultimately placed in a room. If you give a room finding service money, be prepared that there is a possibility you may not be directed to a room and may not be able to get your money back.

Are three-quarter houses & rooms safe?

Living in a basement or an illegally occupied dwelling could put you at risk in event of an emergency. Multiple three-quarter houses have been shut down by the city for fire safety and code violations.

Dozens of shelter residents who moved to three-quarter houses and rooms have had to come back to shelter.

Can I be forced to take a three-quarter house or room?

Go see any housing option offered by shelter staff and write down what you see. Get the address.

If you believe the home is illegally occupied and the program or primary tenant cannot provide you with a lease, let the shelter staff know, in writing, that you don’t believe that it is legal to rent the room and are therefore uncomfortable with the placement.

Ask to see the unit you will live in before you move in. If the landlord or shelter cannot arrange for you to see the room, write this down and ask the shelter staff to include this in your file. You are not required to accept a housing option you have never seen.

If you have other concerns about a room, come to the Crisis Intervention Program and talk to an advocate before you decide to move in. Let your case manager know you can’t make a decision until you talk with an advocate.

Download Know Your Rights flyers here for three-quarter houses and rooms. If you need assistance with pressure from the shelter to accept a three-quarter house or room placement, come into the Crisis Intervention Program.

If you are currently living in a three-quarter house and want more information about your rights contact MFY Legal Services Three- Quarter House Project.

I was in shelter before and need to return, where do I go?

Families who have been away from their shelter placement for 48 hours must reapply for shelter at PATH. Be prepared that PATH will ask you where you have been staying while you have been out of shelter and will reconsider your eligibility for shelter placement. Bring any documents you have to show where you and your family members have been staying and why you cannot return. Single adults belong to the shelter where they last stayed for a year after having left the shelter according to DHS rules. If, within that year, you need to return to shelter, you should return to the same site where you last stayed. If you are returning after a year, you should return to the intake center where you first applied for shelter, click here for a list of intake shelters. It is possible that DHS might ask that you return to the intake center to answer some questions about where you last lived. It is important for you to know that you still have a right to shelter and should get a placement that night.