After Hurricane Sandy, the city provided emergency housing in hotels to more than 1,000 displaced families, and while many are now in permanent homes, some are still living in hotels. But the city wants to stop footing the bill for that, and now, the case is in court. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
Shawn Little and her family have been living in a Times Square hotel since November, since Hurricane Sandy filled their home with five feet of water.
"We left with what was on our backs, came back a few days later to get what we can, but basically, not enough," Little said.
The city has paid for this space while Little tries to find a new home. It said it's helped more than 1,500 families like hers, most of whom have been able to find permanent housing. But Little was told that the city planned to stop paying for her rooms and for about 200 other families, that this was never intended to be an open-ended program. She said that would be devastating.
"We'll be out in the street, nowhere," she said. "This is it right now."
A judge issued a temporary restraining order, forcing the city to keep paying for rooms for now.
Lawyers for the Legal Aid Society are representing the families.
"We're very concerned that these people, who have already been victims of Sandy, not be re-victimized by losing their homes again," said Judith Goldiner, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. "When the city creates a program for people, they can't just take it away from people without a good reason."
In testimony before the City Council, New York City Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said that some of the 200 families turned down housing options. Others, he said, don't qualify for an apartment with the housing authority for a variety of reasons, and that's why the city wants to stop paying for hotels.
Little said she's tried a number of different things, including applying for public housing, but hasn't been successful yet. The city said she's received monetary assistance and just needs to file more paperwork for her public housing application to resume. She said she just needs a little more time in the hotel.
"If only the city just give us a little while longer," she said. "We're just, you know, really, really determined to get out of here. We don't want to stay. We really don't want to stay, but we have no choice."
Lawyers for both sides will be back in court Wednesday afternoon as the fight continues.