Historic Settlement in Family Litigation

Mary Brosnahan, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless, released the following statement in response to the announced agreement between the Bloomberg administration and Legal Aid on the McCain litigation governing intake and conditions for homeless families. Click here to read the New York Times City Room article, “City Settles Lawsuit Over Homeless Families.”

Wednesday, September 16th, 2008

“We applaud today’s settlement of the McCain litigation. On the brink of open court testimony from mothers with children who have been relegated to sleeping on our sidewalks, in church basements, laundry mats, and other public spaces, the Bloomberg Administration has come to its senses and agreed to codify an enforceable Right to Shelter for families with vulnerable children.

“Over four years have passed since the mayor announced his ambitious Five Year Plan to end homelessness, and the numbers of families with children in New York City shelters has grown dramatically. Tonight, over 14,400 children are homeless, a 31% increase since Bloomberg took office. There are over 9,000 families in shelter tonight, fully twice the number the mayor had predicted in his plan.

“In 2004, the City stopped giving homeless families priority for federally-funded Section-8 vouchers and proceeded to stumble through a series of replacement programs, including Housing Stability Plus (abandoned in 2007) and Work Advantage. As the numbers skyrocketed, the Bloomberg Administration began denying emergency shelter to re-applicant families in October 2007. This despite the City’s own data showing fully one-third of families who were ultimately found eligible for shelter were forced to re-apply more than once.

“The combination of denying federal rental subsidies and closing the front door to the shelter system has been an unprecedented disaster for homeless families in NYC. Last month’s report from the Independent Budget Office underscored just how far the mayor has fallen in his ability to manage the homeless crisis.

“We are very pleased that the Department of Homeless Services has agreed to begin to provide assistance to applicant families in gathering basic documents necessary to prove their homeless status, along with other safeguards for which the Coalition has long advocated. However these reforms must be coupled with a reinstatement for Section-8 priority for homeless families in order to bring the numbers down significantly.

“Each morning our waiting room is filled with families in need of shelter, who have been turned away from the PATH center by DHS workers. It is our hope that the City will now stop hiding behind the fig leaf of litigation and start providing families with vulnerable children emergency shelter and long-term, stable rental assistance so they can begin to rebuild their lives.”