Legal Aid Society


City Reverses Course on Dangerous Plan for Homeless New Yorkers

The City of New York has delayed its ill-conceived plan to add burdensome requirements for homeless New Yorkers, who are elderly or otherwise at high risk, to secure safe living accommodations, as reported by City Limits.

Rather than continuing to follow the CDC’s guidance on factors such as age and medical conditions that put individuals at high risk of COVID complications, the City planned to severely limit the criteria it deems worthy of a shelter placement in a less dense setting and send these clients back to crowded congregate sites at the height of the current wave of SARS-Cov-2. This limited criteria would no longer consider an individual’s risk of contracting COVID-19 when determining who may be eligible for a less dense setting, despite the fact that New York City is currently in a high COVID-19 Alert Level

Following outrage from The Legal Aid Society, the Coalition for the Homeless, the Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project, and other advocates, as well as an article in Gothamist/WNYC, the City said it would reverse course and halt the implementation of the new criteria so that they could be reviewed and negotiated with Legal Aid staff to confirm that any changes are consistent with the settlement in the Butler v City of New York case.

“It should not take a bad headline for the City to do what is right for some of our most vulnerable neighbors,” a statement from the organizations reads in part. “Per the CDC, persons ages 65 and up have shouldered the brunt of COVID-19 deaths, and this population should have unfettered access to single-occupancy hotel rooms so they can be better protected from the ongoing pandemic.”

“The City’s burdensome and unnecessary plan to require additional documentation from these New Yorkers would only result in a large number of our clients being moved back to crowded shelter settings, where they would be at high risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19,” the statement continues.