City Postpones Controversial Homeless Shelter Intake Policy

By DNAinfo Staff on November 10, 2011 8:39pm

By Ben Fractenberg and Tom Liddy

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — The city Thursday put the brakes on a controversial new policy to interview homeless people during the intake process at city homeless shelters.

The measure, which was set to go into effect Monday, would make adults seeking shelter prove they have nowhere else to go — in a move that advocates said would force some of the city's ballooning homeless population into the street as winter approaches.

“I am pleased that, as a result of today’s court hearing, the city’s dangerous new policy changing the intake procedure for single adults seeking shelter will not go into effect on Monday," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a statement. 

"I am encouraged that this matter will be heard by the court, and I continue to call on DHS [Department of Homeless Services] to permanently reverse course and prevent these harmful changes from going into effect.”

The move came after the Legal Aid Society filed an action in Manhattan Supreme Court seeking to stop the implementation of the policy.

In court, the city agreed to postpone the implementation until a Dec. 9 court hearing, according to Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society.

Banks, who also represents the Coalition for the Homeless, said that while he was happy that the city took that step: "It’s extremely unfortunate that it required a court action to avert the implementation of this misguided policy next week.

"We certainly hope that the city would reevaluate its plan," he added.

Under the new procedure, the process for getting into the shelter system would include an interview and the hiring of 23 "eligibility specialists," who would look at an applicant's housing history before admitting them.

"Homeless Services believes it is critical to preserve shelter as a valuable resource for those most in need," said Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond in a statement. "While we are confident that the new eligibility requirements are lawful, we have agreed to briefly delay implementation to allow an opportunity for judicial review."

The postponement comes just one day after city council members rallied to stop the proposed rules.

Additional reporting by Jill Colvin.

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