Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
An appeals court has ruled the city may not go forward with a controversial policy that would have made it tougher for poor New Yorkers to qualify for shelter.
The city contends many people seeking shelter have relatives and friends willing to take them in. In November of 2011, the city announced it would require single adults to prove they have no other place to go. The rule already applies to families who apply for shelter.
Legal Aid challenged the policy and predicted that many vulnerable people would not be able to comply and would end up being wrongly denied shelter.
"By the city's own analysis a substantial percentage of these New Yorkers have mental health challenges, have substance abuse problems," said Steve Banks, Attorney in Chief at the Legal Aid Society. "They need a helping hand not the back of a hand."
A lower court ruled the city failed to follow proper procedures prior to implementing the rule which would have required a public announcement and an opportunity for public comment. On Thursday, the appeals court agreed. Banks said he hoped the city would now drop the policy shift. But Homeless Services commissioner Seth Diamond said the city would continue to fight to keep the policy.
"This procedural decision will force the city to build more shelters in neighborhoods throughout the city," Diamond said. "We are confident that city taxpayers and community groups, especially those who object to new shelter proposals understand the need for a thoughtful approach that fairly reserves shelter for those with no alternatives."
The city's law department said it's exploring an appeal to a higher court or fixing the procedural issues the court has pointed out.
Mary Brosnahan from Coalition for the Homeless applauded the court decision.
"The Bloomberg administration's attempt to block access to vital shelter would have relegated many more people to sleep on the streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces in the middle of winter, " she wrote in statement.