Recently Mayor 1% Hizzoner Mike Bloomberg, announced a new Scrooge-like homeless shelter occupation policy, just in time for the upcoming bitter New York City winter.
Last week the Bloomberg administration announced new eligibility rules that would make it harder for homeless people to get into city shelters, a cost-cutting measure astutely timed to coincide with the approach of winter.
Under the policy, originally set to go into effect next week, the city could refuse someone a bed at a shelter unless they proved they had no other housing options, such as staying with relatives or friends. Department of Homeless Services commissioner Seth Diamond claimed the new eligibility guidelines would prevent people who have alternatives to the shelter (like a princely spot on someone's floor) from filling up space reserved for the chronically homeless. Critics pointed out that redefining what counts as "homeless" and throwing bureaucratic obstacles at people in desperate financial straits is not the same thing as actually combatting homelessnes.
"The recession has had a real effect on unemployment and on people's ability to stay in their homes -- our charge is to find ways to help these people -- not to send them into the streets with nowhere to turn to for help," the statement continued.
The policy was roundly and swiftly met with widespread criticism and the Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless vowed to fight in court.
Council member Annabel Palma and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn slammed the policy in a joint statement, saying it is, "cruel, risky, unacceptable, and will not reduce homelessness in the city of New York. Denying people shelter because they have found another option for some period of time is punishing people for trying to do the right thing."
The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless vowed to fight the new guidelines in court, claiming they violate a three-decade old decree established by the court case Callahan v. Carey guaranteeing the availability of shelter for the homeless.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has come out strongly against the Mayor's new policy and has announced the City Council's intention to sue Mayor Bloomberg.This would be a first for Quinn in her six years as council speaker. Quinn has been a strong ally of Bloomberg's in the past and was instrumental in overturning the mayoral term limit law allowing Bloomberg a third term as mayor. As the Daily News put it, Quinn is determined to prove she is not the mayor's lackey.
The City Council is expected to vote today in favor of suing the Bloomberg administration over its new homeless shelter policy.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the policy was imposed without enough legally required notice.
"Clearly things have to be told to the public. That has not happened. I would argue it hasn't happened 'cause it's a bad policy. And you don't promote things you're not proud of."
Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said the new policy focuses resources on those who really need it.
"People who have other options should use those options first, family and friends are better resources in many cases than coming into the shelter system. We want people to fully explore those options, if they have no other options then they will continue to be eligible for shelter."
The lawsuit would be the first filed against the Bloomberg administration in Quinn's six years as council speaker.