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LAS Announces Settlement in Landmark Homeless Youth Lawsuit

The Legal Aid Society today announced a class action settlement in C.W. v. The City of New York – litigation which will expand access to essential, life-saving youth programs and services for runaway and homeless youth ages 16-20 in New York City, according to THE CITY. The settlement establishes citywide procedural changes regarding how city agencies manage homeless youth, improving the system for all young people ages 16-20 that will enter it going forward. The Legal Aid Society represented the plaintiff class along with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP.

“After over six years of litigation, we are very pleased to have reached a settlement, which will establish system-changing relief to some of New York City’s most vulnerable youth,” said Beth Hofmeister, Staff Attorney in the Homeless Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society. “We could not have successfully brought this case without our eleven named plaintiffs who bravely came forward to better the lives of thousands of other runaway and homeless youth. This settlement will ensure that homeless youth in circumstances similar to those of our clients will not have to jump the same hurdles when simply seeking the vital shelter and supportive services they want and need.”

Under the settlement, the City is required to implement the following systemic changes:

• Provide residential program beds to all 16- and 17-year-olds who request them.
• Assess whether NYC needs more youth program beds for runaway and homeless youth ages 16 – 20 and come up with a plan to add beds if needed. The City must also continue to provide enough money to maintain the current number of youth shelter beds and services for runaway and homeless youth, so long as there is reasonable demand for those beds.
• Provide all young people who are staying in youth residential programs with access to mental health services if they need them.
• Ensure that staff at the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) are trained to tell young people about youth residential programs.
• Ensure there are publications and notices explaining how youth can access programs and services in NYC.
• Provide a process for young people to challenge decisions that they feel will discharge them from residential programs unfairly.