Legal Aid Society

Projects, Units & Initiatives

Homeless Rights Project

The Homeless Rights Project (HRP) 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 clients who come to us through our 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.

The Homeless Rights Project serves as class counsel on a number of landmark impact litigation matters, including Callahan v. Carey, which established the right to shelter in New York City for single homeless men. Callahan laid the groundwork for courts to extend this right to other homeless New Yorkers in Eldredge (single homeless women), McCain/Boston (homeless families with minor children and pregnant women), and most recently the C.W. settlement (runaway and homeless youth). HRP is currently monitoring and enforcing a settlement in Butler v. City of New York, which ensures all homeless New Yorkers with disabilities can meaningfully access shelter. 

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

Policy Advocacy

HRP works closely with community and fellow advocacy partners on issues relating to homelessness and housing in both the New York State legislature and the New York City Council. HRP staff regularly testify before State and City legislatures and comment on policies and regulatory changes. HRP also sits on numerous coalitions and task forces to advocate for additional resources for homeless New Yorkers. 

COVID-19 Response

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. Through litigation, HRP was successful in establishing a process for assessing the access needs of clients in hotels and during the process the City used when it forced clients to return to congregate sites. 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 for families. These changes include promoting social distancing by conducting shelter eligibility interviews remotely and allowing families determined to be ineligible for services to reapply for shelter without leaving their current placement.  HRP also brought litigation that forced the City to provide WiFi to all students in shelters that house families with minor children to facilitate access to remote learning. 

Throughout the pandemic, HRP has been an information resource for the community and other Legal Aid staff and advocacy groups. HRP helped initiate an online repository of pandemic-related legal information, as well as created and distributed Know Your Rights materials during the subway shutdown. We have worked with other LAS staff to assist clients transferring from carceral institutions into temporary housing. The team remains committed to protecting the rights of homeless New Yorkers to remain safe during the pandemic. 

Advocacy 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 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
What You Need to Know About Verifying Housing History with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS)

Contact

  • Contact the Homeless Rights Helpline at 800-649-9125 Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • If you need access to shelter, please click here for intake information.