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Judge Rules City Cannot Enforce Homeless Eligibility Policy

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The City Council on Tuesday scored a victory in its lawsuit against the Department of Homeless Services over a policy that would require proof of eligibility.

The new homeless shelter policy had been creating a lot of controversy, drawing heated opposition from city lawmakers, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The ruling centers specifically on a homeless policy for single adults which would have required they provide proof that they have exhausted all other available options.

Critics have argued it places an unwarranted burden on the homeless, potentially driving more people onto the streets.

They also say the city failed to provide adequate notice for the policy, or follow proper procedure as laid out in the City Charter.

“The charter is clear as it relates to how rules get made. And just because you want to make a rule that you think is right, but you might not think the public agrees with, you don’t get to circumvent the process,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

In the Tuesday decision, a Manhattan judge ruled the new policy was “in violation of the public vetting process” required by law, including public hearings.

But Seth Diamond, the city’s homeless services commissioner, pointed out that the ruling has more to do with procedural matters and does not address the policy itself.

“This is really only a procedural aspect. The substantive issues of the case, whether we should be looking to help people who come into the system find alternatives, which is really at the heart of the case, that wasn’t addressed at all,” said Diamond.

At an unrelated event in Brooklyn Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the policy, saying the same rules have applied to homeless families for years.

"For singles, there should be exactly the same standards. It was never done before, I think we should do it now and we're going to do everything we can to have the ability to do it or let the judges explain to the public why they think that you should just have a right to walk in and say, 'Whether or not I need services, give it to me.' I don't think that's what this country's all about," said Bloomberg.

The city says it plans to appeal the decision.

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