City May Offer Residents Furniture to Take in Homeless: Report

NBC New York first reported the new policy’s eligibility requirements for homeless applicants in November.

Friday, Jan 20, 2012  |  Updated 10:07 AM EDT
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The Department of Homeless Services is changing its policy this month to require new applicants at homeless shelters.

Melissa Russo

The Department of Homeless Services is changing its policy this month to require new applicants at homeless shelters.

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The city has devised a new plan to curb overcrowding at homeless shelters: require homeless adults to return to the last place they were staying and the city buys the primary resident furniture in exchange for taking them back.

The Department of Homeless Services said it would try to make sleeping space for the homeless applicant at his or her previous place of residence and possibly offer the primary resident a bed, crib, couch or even food stamps and health insurance to sweeten the deal, reports the Daily News.

“There are modest changes that can be made to the layout of an apartment to accommodate another single,” DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond told the paper.

Single applicants evicted from their homes would be required to return to the location until forcibly removed by a sheriff or marshal before they could become eligible for shelters, according to the policy. The plan actually stipulates that the evicted tenant would have to retrieve the keys he or she returned to the landlord and move back in unless the space had been taken.  

The policy also states that individuals whose friends or family members refuse to allow them to continue living in their homes would not be eligible for homeless shelters. Applicants who can’t prove homeless status would also be denied eligibility.

NBC New York first reported the policy’s new eligibility requirements in November.

More than 20,000 single adults applied for shelter status in 2011, according to DHS statistics. About 10 percent of those people would be denied shelter under the new policy, saving the city $4 million, according to the News.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called the policy “irresponsible.”

Homeless advocates fear it would ultimately result in more people forced to live on the street for lack of other options, including the shelters they believe were designed to serve as a last resort.  

The City Council and the Legal Aid Society of New York are suing the city over the plan. Court arguments are scheduled for Friday.

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