Callahan Settlement Preserves the Right to Shelter While Implementing Temporary Measures During the Humanitarian Crisis

After months of a Court-supervised mediation, the Coalition for the Homeless and the City reached a settlement that stops Mayor Adams’ and Governor Hochul’s nearly year-long efforts to dismantle New York’s long-standing Right to Shelter for single adults, established under Callahan v. Carey.1 Citing the need for flexibility in addressing the influx of thousands of asylum seekers and other new arrivals to NYC that began in the spring of 2022, the City had sought the ability to automatically deny shelter to new arrivals as well as to longer-term New Yorkers who do not receive Public Assistance benefits. This would have resulted in thousands of people being relegated to the streets, and New York resembling Los Angeles and other cities without a Right to Shelter that are filled with sprawling tent encampments of unsheltered individuals living in public spaces. The agreement leaves the Callahan consent decree intact and creates a temporary “Crisis Plan” that specifies how the City must provide emergency shelter to single adult new arrivals.

In connection with entering this settlement as a Court order on March 15, 2024, New York State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Lebovits stated that “the provisions of this settlement agreement . . . do not take away from the protections that Callahan already provides, and will continue to provide, to ensure that single adults in the City can always obtain shelter.”

A few key aspects of this settlement are as follows:

  • The underlying Callahan consent decree has not been modified.
  • The settlement sets forth a temporary plan to address the humanitarian crisis related to the influx of new arrivals. Once the current crisis in NYC ends, all of the standard terms of the Callahan consent decree will apply to everyone.
  • By April 8, 2024, the City must end the use of “waiting rooms” as shelter for single adult asylum seekers and other new arrivals who have been resting on chairs and floors for days awaiting a new bed in a City shelter.
  • The settlement only relates to single adult new arrivals. Nothing changes for new arrival families with children.
  • All single adult new arrivals seeking shelter will be assessed individually for shelter eligibility and for ongoing extensions of their initial 30 (or 60) day shelter stay.
  • All eligible single adult new arrivals under 23 years old will be provided 60 days of initial shelter placement while all other eligible single adult new arrivals will be entitled to 30 days of initial shelter placement.
  • Extension of initial shelter stays will be based on whether there are any extenuating circumstances which may include whether the new arrival has made significant efforts to resettle. If extended prior to expiration of the initial term, the new arrival will not have to relocate to a different shelter.
  • Individuals with verifiable disabilities can extend their initial shelter stay.
  • The Coalition’s role as court-appointed monitor extends to drop-in centers and sites sheltering single adult new arrivals.

Taken together, these elements support what Judge Lebovits referred to as a “meaningful right to shelter for the new arrivals when they arrive, assessed on an individualized basis, so that everyone has a right to a bed and safe conditions, instead of sleeping on streets or in waiting room chairs or dying in the cold.”

For more details, please see the settlement agreement and the transcript of the March 15 hearing.

  1. Even though New York State is a party in the original Callahan litigation, no agreement was reached with the State as part of this settlement. We will continue to evaluate the situation going forward.  ↩︎