New Enforceable Legal Framework Can Alleviate Problems in Family Shelter System, Banks Tells Council
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2008

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, testified before the New York City Council's Committee on General Welfare concerning the status of various City efforts to alleviate homelessness in New York City. The settlement with the City and State in the McCain litigation and related cases on behalf of homeless children and their families was widely reported in the media last week. "We are hopeful that this new enforceable legal framework will alleviate the problems in the family shelter system that children and families have experienced," Banks said.

Key components include:

  • a final judgment in which the City has agreed to a permanent injunction requiring the provision of shelter to families with children who lack alternative housing that is enforceable before any Justice of the Supreme Court who can apply all available remedies to achieve compliance by the City with the final judgment;
  • a final judgment in which the City has agreed to a permanent injunction requiring the provision of shelter to families with children that is safe, sanitary, and decent in accordance with State and local law, and requiring the City to provide shelter to families with children in a timely and appropriate manner in accordance with applicable law – and this permanent injunction is also enforceable before any Justice of the Supreme Court who can apply all available remedies to achieve compliance by the City with the final judgment;
  • a final judgment with an enforceable procedure specifying the process for the City to determine shelter eligibility for families with children, requiring the provision of written notice of eligibility or ineligibility, requiring compliance with legal requirements applicable to shelter terminations and shelter re-applications, making it clear that a permanent address is not required for receipt of public benefits, setting forth the process of shelter and intake center access for legal representatives, and providing for the publication of Department of Homeless Services shelter eligibility data – and this City procedure will remain in place until December 31, 2010 but can be extended further by any Justice of the Supreme Court on a showing of systemic non-compliance by the City and the procedure is also enforceable before any Justice of the Supreme Court who can apply all available remedies to achieve compliance by the City with the final judgment;
  • a final judgment to protect families with pregnant women or children under six months of age from unlawful shelter placements that is also enforceable in the event of noncompliance like any final judgment; and
  • a final judgment in which the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has agreed to provide priority administrative hearings for families with children to challenge City shelter ineligibility determinations and to apply the requirements of the new City eligibility procedure in those hearings.

Testimony of The Legal Aid Society concerning the status of various City efforts to alleviate homelessness in New York City.