City Temporarily Halts Controversial Homeless Policy

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A new controversial homeless policy set to take effect Monday will be halted until December 9. The new policy would have allowed staff at an intake center to deny shelter to individuals if, after reviewing where they've lived over the past year, they determined someone such as a friend or relative could take them in.

Legal Aid alleges the stricter eligibility rule violates a long standing court order and challenged the policy in court. The city will postpone the implementation of the policy until a judge determines whether it's legal or not. 

Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said the city will not back off the policy. "We want to go forward because we believe shelter should be reserved for those who have no other option but because the judge wanted to do a full review of the situation we agreed to postpone implementation to give her time to do so," he said.

Legal Aid believes the policy will result in people being denied shelter when they really have no other place to go. There's also concern the mentally ill will fall through the cracks. "The danger of this policy is that these very vulnerable New Yorkers will go without shelter and be relegated to the streets and stoops and subways and other public spaces of the city", said chief attorney Steve Banks. 

In a strongly worded letter, the state's Office of Temporary Disability Assistance also expressed concerns about the policy and said it had in no way approved it.

Diamond said the state acknowledged the policy was not inconsistent with state regulations and that's sufficient to go forward.