Right to Adequate Emergency Shelter for Homeless Single Men

Callahan v. Carey, Index No. 42582/79 (Sup. Co. N.Y. Co.)

Nature of Claims: Plaintiffs allege that Article XVII of the State Constitution, the State Social Services Law, and provisions of the City Administrative Code impose a legal obligation on the City and State to provide adequate food and shelter for homeless single adults.

Background: A Consent Decree requires the City to provide emergency shelter and board to each homeless man in need of it. (This obligation was extended to homeless women in Eldredge v Koch, 118 Misc. 2d 163, rev’d on other grounds, 98 A.D.2d 675 (1st Dep’t 1983)). The Consent Decree also sets forth minimum standards regarding bedding, security, supervision, staffing, storage of belongings, etc.

Current Status: On November 8, 2006, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion for an order directing the City defendants to provide The Legal Aid Society with copies of any shelter termination notices at the time such notices are issued to homeless individuals who are residing in shelters governed by the Consent Decree. On June 4, 2009, the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed this order, holding that the Department of Homeless Services must furnish copies of all shelter termination notices to the Society because those notices are records relevant to enforcement and monitoring of decree. Callahan v. Carey, 12 N.Y.3d 496, 882 N.Y.S.2d 392 (2009).

On December 11, 2009, in response to census reports indicating that the City does not have enough shelter capacity for all homeless men and women, the plaintiffs moved by order to show cause for an injunction enjoining the City from failing to provide lawful shelter and board for each person who applies for it. On December 22, 2009, the court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the City to make reasonable efforts to avoid the systemic, repeated use of beds for sleeping purposes only without providing the full services that are otherwise required by the Callahan consent decree. Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion is returnable on January 20, 2010.

Related Action: Eldredge v Koch, 118 Misc. 2d 163, rev’d on other grounds, 98 A.D.2d 675 (1st Dep’t 1983).

No. Persons Affected: Over 6,900 homeless adults reside in the City’s shelters for single men and women, including over 4,900 homeless men and over 2,000 homeless women.

Reported Decisions: Callahan v. Carey, N.Y.L.J., Dec. 11, 1979, at 10, col. 5 (Sup. Co. N.Y. Co., Dec. 5, 1979); Callahan v. Carey, 307 A.D.2d 150, 762 N.Y.S.2d 349 (1st Dep’t 2003); Callahan v. Carey, 12 N.Y.3d 496, 882 N.Y.S.2d 392 (2009).