Thursday, November 27, 2014

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Homeless Department Announces New Plan To Verify Those Using Shelters

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Last month a court struck down the city's bid to force some homeless people to prove they had nowhere else to go before seeking shelter, but now the city has another idea to make sure those in the shelter system truly need to be there. NY1's Courtney Gross has the story.

Once again, Johnny Berry is homeless.

"They called me a career homeless person, because I have been in the system for 25 years. And they said that I need to get my life together.

Now, the commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, Seth Diamond, has some questions for him.

"If somebody has been out for six months or nine months or three months, they've been somewhere," Diamond said. "We want to have a discussion about where that somewhere is and whether that represents a place where they can go in the future."

The Department of Homeless Services is targeting the habitually homeless with a new policy first discussed at the City Council on Monday. Under the new policy, single homeless adults will have to reapply for shelter if they leave for more than 30 days.

"We do believe that we should be able to have a conversation with them about where they have been," Diamond said.

Diamond said people like Berry may have somewhere else to go, and the new policy could help reduce the number of single homeless individuals in the city's shelters, who now total more than 9,700.

But it comes a month after an appeals court struck down a similar requirement. The city tried to force single homeless adults to prove they had nowhere else to go.

But Diamond said the new program is different.

At City Hall on Monday, the commissioner initially skirted questions from NY1 about the specifics, but eventually summed up the change.

"The policy in court would require people to go back to alternatives that we determine viable," he said. "This is a voluntary approach."

That explanation hasn't silenced critics.

"We think these are rules that are really just going to make it harder for vulnerable people to get a roof over their head on some of the coldest nights of the year," Patrick Markee of the Coalition for the Homeless said.

Diamond said the new policy will not apply to anyone with a mental illness. He said the department plans on implementing it in July.

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