Tuesday, April 22, 2014

City Extends More Compassionate Shelter Policy for Homeless Families with Children

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

In recent years families experiencing homelessness, and homeless advocates, have expressed concern and frustration with the difficulties homeless families with children sometimes faced in gaining access to the city’s shelter system. That’s why the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) decision during the recent brutally cold winter season to waive some of the eligibility requirements and admittance procedures during especially cold times was greeted with such universal appreciation. In life-threatening weather, why not show compassion to homeless families?

But why not show that compassion and concern all the time?

That’s exactly what deBlasio administration policymakers decided to do last week. DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor and elected city Public Advocate Letitia James jointly announced families with children who apply for shelter and aren’t found immediately eligible would nonetheless be allowed to stay the night. Commissioner Taylor, calling it the compassionate thing to do, said “it gives them a moment to think about what the next morning will bring.” 

Public Advocate James, a long-time advocate for people experiencing homelessness and vulnerable New Yorkers, applauded the new policy as bringing “dignity to families.”

Often the reason families may be found ineligible is because of a lack of information or documentation about where they had been staying. The new policy avoids turning families out late in the day and allows adequate time for appealing an initial decision or perhaps gathering sufficient information.

We applaud Mayor deBlasio, Commissioner Taylor, Advocate James and others involved in the new, compassionate policy. It’s the right thing to do.