NEW YORK (CN) – The Bloomberg administration settled a 25-year-old class action by giving homeless families in New York City the right to emergency shelter.
The settlement comes after the city’s Independent Budget Office found that Bloomberg’s 2004 plan to cut homelessness by two-thirds by 2009 was falling far short. While the number of homeless single adults in the city has lowered, the number of homeless families has risen. On a given night in New York City, 9,000 families, including 14,000 children, are housed in shelters, according to Director of the Coalition for the Homeless Mary Brosnahan.
The main lawsuit, McCain v. Koch, was brought by the Legal Aid Society against Mayor Ed Koch’s administration in 1983, and dragged under four mayoral administrations. The case followed previous lawsuits filed by homeless men and women, who won the right to emergency shelter.
The Bloomberg settlement covers more than 40 lawsuits claiming that homeless families were denied shelter or kept from applying for it. The plaintiff in the leading lawsuit, Yvonne McCain, was evicted from a Brooklyn apartment in 1982 for refusing to pay rent until her landlord made repairs.
The settlement gives the city full control over homeless services, ending what Mayor Michael Bloomberg called an era of court oversight. The Department of Homeless Services will adopt standardized policies, including assisting families in gathering documents needed to prove their homeless status, instead of relying on court orders for specific cases.
Brosnahan said the administration had “come to its senses” in codifying the right to shelter.
Bloomberg announced the settlement Wednesday morning.