Young Children and Families Left Out in the Cold

Homeless families continue to face huge hurdles in gaining access to emergency shelter, but the Bloomberg administration has reached a new low in its quest to deny shelter to as many families as possible. This weekend, the New York Daily News reported that the Department of Homeless Services no longer guarantees emergency shelter to families during cold weather emergencies—a policy which provided some measure of protection for families navigating the City’s difficult shelter eligibility rules.

Junior Clarke, his wife, and their 4-year-old daughter were found ineligible for shelter because the City claimed they could return to Clarke’s mother-in-law’s home in Suffolk County. In reality, they have not been welcome there since 2008, but the Department of Homeless Services still told their family to leave the shelter intake center during 13 degree weather last month:

“They tried to send us outside into the cold,” said Clarke, 23, who was with his wife, Kaneesha, 23, and 4-year-old daughter, Janiah. “They threatened to have us thrown out by police.” [Daily News]

The Legal Aid Society helped Clarke’s family secure a placement that night, but many more families are left without assistance from advocates. Moreover, this abrupt change in policy was made in complete secrecy sometime during the last year, prompting City Council leaders to write the department:

The change also got the attention of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilwoman Annabel Palma (D-Bronx) who sent a letter to Diamond last month. “We are deeply concerned about DHS’ current practice of denying some families overnight placement during extreme weather,” they wrote. [Daily News]

All in all, this change is just the latest misguided attempt by the Bloomberg administration to hide the problem of record homelessness and underscores the increasing irrationality of the administration’s refusal to provide affordable housing to homeless families.