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PR- 063-05
February 15, 2005


City Seeks to Reinforce Protections for Families with Children when Litigation Ends

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Homeless Service (DHS) Commissioner Linda Gibbs and Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo today hailed an independent court-appointed panel for recommending to Justice Helen Freedman of the State Supreme Court that she end 22-years of court oversight of the family shelter system. In making the historic recommendation, the Family Homelessness Special Master Panel wrote, “We believe that after 22 years of system-wide litigation involving homeless families with children the City of New York has earned the opportunity to go forward into a new era.”

“This is a tremendous victory for homeless families and a vote of confidence in our reforms to overcome family homelessness in this City,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We’ve pursued an aggressive reform agenda – focused on prevention, housing, respectful services, and accountability – and homeless families are served the better for it. I’d like to thank the panel members for their tremendous commitment to the people of this City, and encourage Justice Freedman to act promptly and consistently with the panel’s courageous recommendations. In addition, our desire is to reinforce the protections provided to families with children as this costly and distracting litigation ends. I hope the Legal Aid Society and the court will join us in this historic opportunity to ensure the rights of homeless families.”

The parties formed the special master panel on January 17, 2003, with two primary goals: 1) avoid costly and distracting litigation for two years, while the city implements reforms, and 2) give the three-member panel the chance to assess the homeless family shelter system, especially the intake and eligibility processes, and make recommendations for its improvement. While the panel never had the power to end the lawsuits itself, its mission did include making a final recommendation about whether the litigation should end; only the court has the power to end the litigation. The panel was unanimous in its determination.

“The panel has today affirmed that a compassionate and accountable approach to service delivery, rather than a patchwork of court orders, is the best way to help homeless families,” said Commissioner Gibbs. “The two-year litigation respite gave us a chance to move away from crisis management to a sane and responsive service delivery approach. Our commitment to ensuring high quality services is strong, our track record in delivering results is clear, and we will continue with reforms as we take the next steps to end the litigation.”

In making its recommendations, the panel noted the tremendous progress the city has made in reforming the system and producing better results for at-risk and homeless families.
The panel noted:

  • A new temporary intake center for families applying for shelter where a number of the panel’s recommendations have been realized. Since opening the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) center, the processing times for new applicants have gone from days to hours and overnight placements for new applicants have been virtually eliminated.
  • Record setting rates of placing homeless families into permanent housing, with over 7,000 placements in Fiscal Year 2004 alone.
  • No homeless families with children having stayed overnight at the Emergency Assistance Unit or PATH, in violation of court orders, in two years.
  • The introduction of innovative community-based prevention services in six high-need neighborhoods.
  • The creation of a new rental assistance program, Housing Stability Plus, to help families leave shelter for permanent homes.

The panel delivered its recommendations to State Supreme Court Justice Helen Freedman on January 18, 2005 officially ending its two-year term. During its tenure, the panel released – and the parties largely embraced – reports and recommendations on homelessness prevention and the family shelter intake and eligibility processes. The panel was comprised of Professor of Law and former Fordham School of Law Dean John D. Feerick, Fund for the City of New York Senior Fellow Daniel Kronenfeld, and Citizens’ Committee for Children Executive Director Gail B. Nayowith.


Edward Skyler/ Jordan Barowitz   (212) 788-2958


James Anderson   (Department of Homeless Service)
(212) 361-7971

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