Know Your Rights

Single Adult Shelter System

The Callahan Consent Decree guarantees homeless single adults a right to shelter and certain standards for shelter placements. If you have no where to sleep, you can walk into an intake office and let the City know you have no where to stay – you have a right to receive a shelter placement the same night.

While there is no eligibility process, there is an assessment period of approximately 21 days (although assessment can vary in length), to determine where you will be placed.  You may be transferred to another shelter for assessment or may stay at the intake shelter. Once your assessment is complete, DHS will transfer you to an “official shelter” where you will stay for a longer period of time. Your official shelter site may change while you are in shelter – click here for information about your rights with respect to shelter transfers.

The Callahan Consent Decree also guarantees access to certain resources and conditions in your shelter placement. You must receive a bed frame, a mattress, a locker and lock, your bed must be 3 feet apart from the other beds in the shelter, you must have access to linens, basic toiletries, and laundry services among other things. The Peoples Callahan outlines all of your rights in more detail.

Under the “Client Responsibility” procedure homeless individuals and families can be ejected from the shelter system for a minimum of 30 days if DHS claims that they did not comply with:

  • an “independent living plan” (ILP)
  • housing search requirements
  • facility rules concerning health and safety
  • scheduled appointments
  • saving requirements

Under the rules, shelter residents could be ejected from shelter for breaking curfew or missing appointments, for not complying with shelter savings plans, or other so-called “violations.”  Residents cannot be ejected from shelter if they have a mental or physical condition that makes them unable to follow these rules, although proving this is sometimes difficult.

The Coalition for the Homeless, working with our Client Advisory Group and the Client Advisory Boards, will fight to protect your rights. We will:

  • provide legal assistance
  • assist with fair hearings and other administrative appeals
  • ensure that you still have a roof over your head

Download the our Client Responsibility and Know Your Rights fliers for more information.

Eligibility for Families WITH Children

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 all the reasons why you had to leave.

You will be provided with shelter that night and for approximately 10 days after. During this time, PATH will investigate your eligibility. They will visit and call places you have stayed 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, if you are eligible or ineligible 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.

Eligibility for Families WITHOUT Children

You have a right to apply for shelter and have your application considered by the City. The application office, called the Adult Family Intake Center (AFIC), is open 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 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 all the reasons why you had to leave.  Explain the details of why you left.

You will be provided with shelter that night and for approximately 10 days after.  During this time, AFIC will investigate your eligibility. They will visit and call places you have stayed 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 AFIC during this time.

At the end of the 10 days DHS will make a decision, if you are eligible or ineligible 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 families when they believe another housing option is available.  If you need assistance with your application for shelter, come into the Crisis Intervention Program.

Three-Quarter Houses

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 has more than one person per room, often 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 the know your rights fliers 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.

Extreme Cold - Code Blue

What is Code Blue?

The Department of Homeless Services has a policy called “Code Blue” for winter nights when at least one of the following weather conditions occurs:

  • Temperature below 32 degrees
  • Wind chill below 0 degrees
  • Snow greater than 6 inches
  • Ice storms or freezing rain

What Changes When Code Blue is in Effect?

On these nights Department of Homeless Services policies are relaxed to ensure everyone is warm and safe.  This includes:

  • Drop in centers are required to take as many clients as possible, within the Department of Buildings restrictions.
  • Anyone in need of a place to go can walk into single adult or family shelters, without undergoing typical intake and eligibility procedures for the night in question.
  • Clients can access any shelter, not just their assigned shelter for the night in question.
  • Warming buses may be provided.
  • More outreach teams will be on the streets to offer services and shelter.
  • No shelter suspensions or sanctions can be carried out on these dates, clients who have been sanctioned can return to the shelter for the night in question, if necessary.
  • Anyone in need of a warm place to go can walk into hospital emergency room.

Extreme Heat - Code Red

What is Code Red?

The Department of Homeless Services has a policy called “Code Red” for summer nights when the heat index of 90 degrees is predicted by the National Weather Service with in 24 hours.

What changes when Code Red is in effect?

  • Drop in centers are required to take as many clients as possible, within the Department of Buildings restrictions.
  • Anyone in need of a place to go can walk into single adult or family shelters, without undergoing typical intake and eligibility procedures for the night in question.
  • For single adults who have been in shelter in the past this includes that clients can access any shelter, not just their assigned shelter for the night in question.
  • Cooling vans or centers may be provided.
  • More outreach teams will be on the streets to offer services and shelter.
  • No shelter suspensions or sanctions can be carried out on these dates, clients who have been sanctioned can return to the shelter for the night in question, if necessary.
  • Anyone in need of a cool place to go can walk into hospital emergency room.

Shelter Conditions

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.

Public Assistance

Emergency Benefits

Typically, new applications for public assistance benefits take 30-45 days to be approved.  If you are without any food or resources when you apply for public assistance or food stamps, you have the right to request emergency assistance.  Tell your case worker that you are homeless, your income is very low, and it is an emergency that you receive help now.

Public Assistance Application without Identification

If you are in need of public assistance benefits, but do not have identification, a number of lawsuits guarantee you the right to submit an application.  The Human Resources Administration must help you to secure the documents they need to open your case.  Tell the worker you meet with that you are homeless and do not have access to documentation of your identity.  Ask for their help in securing this documentation.

Fair Hearing Requests and Aid to Continue

If you believe HRA or DHS has made an error in determining your eligibility for assistance, or for the amount of a grant, you can request a fair hearing with a representative of the State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance.  It may take time for your hearing to be scheduled.  When requesting a fair hearing make sure to request “Aid to Continue” if you were receiving benefits and they were cut off.  If granted, Aid to Continue, will allow you to continue receiving your benefits while you are waiting for your hearing.  If you need advice about your public assistance benefits or request for Aid to Continue, please come in to see an advocate in the Crisis Intervention Program.

You can file for a fair hearing by any of the means listed below:

In person:
14 Boreum Place
Downtown Brooklyn
Take the 2,3,4,5, N or R trains to Court Street or Brooklyn Borough Hall

By Phone: 1 (800) 342-3334

By Fax: 518-473-6735 ( the form below should be printed and faxed)

By Mail: Office of Administrative Hearings, P.O. Box 1930, Albany, NY 12201-1930

Online Form: Click Here

Disability Accommodation

DHS, HRA and other City and State agencies have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities including modifications to policies or procedures when necessary.  Examples of accommodations include flexible scheduling of appointments, access to interpreters, assistance with reading and completing forms, and bed passes.  If you need an accommodation, you can make a verbal request by talking to your case manager in the shelter or at HRA.

You and your doctor may also need to submit a reasonable accommodation request.  If you need help making a request for accommodations, please come into the Crisis Intervention Program.