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Projects, Units & Initiatives

Homeless Rights Project

The Homeless Rights Project protects and enforces the legal rights of homeless families and individuals in New York City. We do so by providing law reform representation to groups of homeless families and individuals as well as by providing direct representation for families who come to us through a toll-free helpline and our ongoing outreach in emergency housing facilities. The Project also serves as counsel to the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization providing advocacy and direct service for the homeless in New York City.

COVID-19 Response

Our Homeless Rights Project (HRP) has been steadfast in its efforts to advocate for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our regular and ongoing responsibilities to our clients, staff advocated for the City’s Department of Homeless Services (NYC DHS) to provide shelter residents and street homeless individuals with placement in hotel rooms rather than congregate shelters due to the risks inherent in congregate settings. Now, the majority of clients who had been placed in congregate settings are placed in hotel rooms. We continue to advocate for all clients remaining in congregate settings to be provided individual hotel rooms. Following additional advocacy by HRP, NYC DHS staff have made numerous changes to their procedures, promoting social distancing by conducting interviews remotely and allowing families determined to be ineligible for services to reapply for shelter without leaving their current placement. HRP has also worked with elected officials and other organizations to preserve shelter placements for families and single adults who the Mayor had proposed to move in response to political pressure from a vocal minority of residents on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Through the pandemic HRP has been an information resource for the community and other Legal Aid staff and advocacy groups, including starting an online repository of pandemic-related legal information and creating and distributing Know Your Rights materials during the subway shutdown. We have also worked with other LAS staff to assist clients transferring from carceral institutions into temporary housing. The team remains committed to addressing needs as they continue to arise, including litigation to protect our clients’ rights to remain safe during the pandemic.


The Homeless Rights Program (HRP) recently worked in collaboration with the Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham Law School, New York Law School, Safe Passage Project, and Human Rights First to establish a new procedure for families applying for shelter who are asylees, asylum-seekers, or survivors of human trafficking. This developed procedure exempts members of this group from components of the normal shelter application process that could potentially put them in danger.

Additional Resources

What You Need to Know About Reasonable Accommodations in Shelter if You Have a Disability
What You Need to Know About Requesting Language Access Services
What You Need to Know About Applying for Shelter at PATH
What You Need to Know About Verifying Housing History with PATH
What You Need to Know About Addressing Bad Shelter Conditions
What You Need to Know About Bringing a Lawsuit Against the Department of Homeless Services
What You Need to Know if a Shelter Lost or Damaged Your Stuff

Learn more about our law reform work on our ligation docket.


Contact the Homeless Rights Helpline at 800-649-9125 Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.