Legal Aid Society

A Day In The Life

Building a Better Future in the Homeless Rights Project

For over three decades, we have fought to defend the Right to Shelter for homeless people across our city. Josh Goldfein, a Staff Attorney with our Homeless Rights Project, has helped lead the charge to protect these most vulnerable New Yorkers.

New York City’s right to shelter means that the City is obligated to provide a bed for every New Yorker who needs one. While this may sound like a solution on paper, Josh and his colleagues say that it takes tenacity, vigilance, and a lot of work every day to ensure the homeless are properly sheltered. Our Homeless Rights Project gives a voice to the homeless, enforcing their rights through individual representation and advocacy. Every day, the Project works to connect clients to safe and sustainable shelter solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this work has only gotten harder.

What we want is permanent housing to reduce the shelter population. That’s a huge focus of our work.

Before the pandemic, our city’s shelter system was already overburdened. Aging buildings, crowded facilities, and limited access for New Yorkers with disabilities made shelters unsafe and uncertain solutions for many clients. Now, shelters pose a whole new set of problems. Unsanitary conditions and limited space for social distancing have made some shelters outright dangerous for vulnerable individuals. In response, the city has rushed to find safe space for the growing number of homeless New Yorkers. During these hasty moves, some individuals with disabilities have been placed without necessary accommodations. “The city has no records of these residents’ disabilities, which would effectively keep them from being moved into adequate shelters.” We have taken legal action to provide appropriate shelter options for people with disabilities.

Even these short-sighted moves are only a temporary fix. Josh and his colleagues are always working towards creating long-term solutions to the homelessness crisis. “What we want is permanent housing to reduce the shelter population. That’s a huge focus of our work.” The Homeless Rights Project is committed to building a better future for our homeless clients.

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