Staying out past curfew or refusing apartments offered to them could cost homeless families a roof over their heads, according to a stringent policy going into effect today.
The new policy makes it much easier for authorities to evict people from the shelter system, which had about 9,720 families as of Sunday. But the commissioner for homeless services, Robert V. Hess, says it will only be used in worst-case scenarios.
Bringing in drugs or weapons were always cause for eviction, but now families could find themselves back on the street for any of 28 violations, including forgetting to sign in and out or not maintaining an active case file with city welfare agencies, according to The New York Times.
The idea is to get families to accept permanent housing even if they're not happy with it. Temporary emergency shelter is supposed to be just that – temporary and for emergencies – and a few families end up overstaying their welcome, Hess told the Times.
Evictions last 30 days under the new policy.
The five shelters operated directly by the Department of Homeless Services will implement the new rules today, while those managed by the 150 organizations or so that have contracts with the city will implement them by Aug. 17, reports the Times.
Legal Aid Society attorney Steven R. Banks fears the policy could harm children and adults with physical and mental impairments.
“With all of the problems that the state has and all of the problems that the city has right now, in the midst of this economic downturn, it’s shocking that the state and the city are prepared to invest the resources to put innocent children and their families out of safety-net shelters onto the streets,” Banks told the Times. “You have to wonder who needs this, with all of the other issues that are going on.”
Some shelters say they're not going to kick anyone out for violating things like curfews, but others are pleased that they have more leeway to deal with difficult families. It's not that they plan to evict people, but they can use the threat as leverage to get families to behave and follow the rules.
“There’s not a caseworker alive that wants to realize that threat, and as an agency, we don’t want to move people to the streets,” Richard Motta, president and chief executive of Volunteers of America of Greater New York, told the Times. “That’s not what we’re in business to do. But if you enter the shelter, if you know there’s a threat of being put out of the shelter, you’ll be more likely to follow the rules.”
The state had to approve the new regulations before they took effect. A pamphlet given to shelter operators outlines the rules, which provide some protection for families, especially in harsh weather. Shelter operators will be instructed to let families stay when the temperature drops to 32 degrees.