Judge tosses out New York's stricter homeless rules

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 21, 2012 4:03 PM
Judge tosses out New York's stricter homeless rules

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A judge threw out controversial new eligibility requirements for New York City's homeless shelters on Tuesday, a victory for homeless advocates on an issue likely to play a role in the 2013 race for mayor.

State Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische ruled the policy, which requires those seeking a bed at city shelters to prove they have nowhere else to go, was instituted without meeting requirements for a public hearing and other procedural steps.

The city plans to appeal the decision, said Seth Simon, commissioner of the homeless services department.

The department approved the stricter policy in November, a step criticized as "cruel and punitive" by Christine Quinn, the city council speaker and an expected mayoral candidate in 2013.

"This was a wrong-headed policy that put a burden of proof on people who could least shoulder it," said Quinn and Annabel Palma, who chairs the council's general welfare committee, in a joint statement.

City officials have estimated the policy would save $4 million per year.

The legal challenge was brought by the city council - the first independent lawsuit filed by the council against Mayor Michael Bloomberg since Quinn became speaker in 2006 - and challenged the policy strictly on procedural grounds, asserting the new rules should have been subject to public scrutiny.

The new policy would effectively turn away 10 percent of the 20,000 homeless men and women who pass through New York's homeless shelters every year, according to the Legal Aid Society, which has brought a separate challenge against the city.

(Reporting By Joseph Ax; Editing by Daniel Trotta)