Legal Aid Society

Challenging Disability-Based Discrimination in NYC’s Homeless Shelters in Butler et al. vs. City of New York

We worked with White & Case to bring Butler et al. vs. City of New York, a federal class action case challenging disability-based discrimination in the City’s homeless shelter system. Every night, there are nearly 60,000 people sleeping the City’s shelter system—a high proportion of them have difficulties resulting from a disability. For some, it’s a simple thing such as needing an air-conditioned room to fend off asthma attacks or having a place to plug in an oxygen tank. For others, it involves people who can’t walk being left stranded on upper floors of building with no working elevators.

The City’s emergency shelter systems do not currently comply with numerous New York State statutes and federal civil rights laws governing accommodations of individuals with disabilities. The case was brought on behalf of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY) and the Coalition for the Homeless, as well as several named plaintiffs. In August of 2017, we secured a settlement with the City on behalf of a class of individuals who have a disability and who currently live in a shelter, who will seek shelter in the future, or who tried to access shelter on or after May 14, 2012.