People line up outside the Bowery Mission on Thanksgiving 2012, waiting for a meal. (Credit: Danielle Tcholakian)
On February 14th, Appellate Court Judge Judith Gische upheld a previous trial court decision ruling in a case brought by the City Council against the Department of Homeless Services. The decision ruled in favor of the Council, and meant that DHS cannot require homeless individuals to prove they have nowhere else to stay before allowing them into a shelter.
Speaker Christine Quinn praised the ruling as preventing a burden from being placed on those who are most vulnerable -- requiring people with little access of resources to prove just how needy they are.
There has long been a policy that places that burden of proof on homeless families. This case applied only to homeless adults.
City shelters are obligated to accept all adults, but there are limits on the amount of time a person can stay in a given shelter.
However, as DHS Chancellor Seth Diamond pointed out in a statement, the ruling does not apply to the merits of the policy, just the way it was put in effect.
The city attempted to implement it without going through a public hearings process.
The city can now appeal this ruling, accept it and drop the intended policy, or accept it and go through the public hearings process.
In the same statement, Diamond said the decision "will force the city to build more shelters in neighborhoods throughout the city," and that the city is "confident that city taxpayers and community groups, especially those who object to new shelter proposals" would be in favor of the proof-of-eligibility policy.
City comptroller John Liu recently rejected a plan for a homeless shelter on the grounds that they are overly concentrated in certain areas, though did not propose what areas shelters could be built in; Brooklyn Community Board 6 rejected a homeless shelter on 165 West 19th Street last November.
By the city's own count, there are over 3,000 people living on the street and 49,000 people living in shelters. 20,000 of those in shelters are children.
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