New York City

Court orders mediation in NYC’s legal battle over homeless shelter obligations

October 23, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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A judge ordered New York City and advocates for the homeless to enter mediation on Thursday. The court’s order comes as the city seeks relief from its unique legal obligation to provide shelter to anyone in need, citing a surge of asylum-seekers that has put a strain on city resources.

“We welcome the court directing the parties into mediation to both build off of the recent solutions we have secured and identify additional resources that will ensure the city’s compliance with the Callahan consent decree and safeguard our clients’ well-being,” said The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless in a joint statement.

Mayor Eric Adams had sent a written request in May to the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts, Hon. Deborah Kaplan, seeking to relax the mandates of the landmark case Callahan v. Carey. The request followed the mayor’s announcement on Monday of a new policy limiting shelter stays for migrant families with children to just 60 days.

The advocates for the homeless believe that the court-ordered mediation will have practical implications. “Mediation will also allow for many of the measures recently put into place to actually materialize and live up to their full intended promise, including expedited processing of work authorization and the extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans, among other items,” the statement from The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless added.

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As of the latest data, more than 60,000 international migrants currently reside in city shelters, part of a wave of over 120,000 that have arrived in New York City over the past year. Mayor Adams’ office estimates that the city will spend approximately $12 billion over the next three years to handle the influx.

“Legal Aid and the Coalition look forward to working with the state, the city and the court through this process to both preserve the consent decree and guarantee that anyone in need of shelter in our city has access to that right, one that has defined New York City for the last four decades,” the joint statement concluded.

Previously, Mayor Adams had limited adult migrants to 30-day stays in city-run shelters due to overcrowding. His efforts to manage the crisis also include a recent four-day diplomatic trip to Latin America, during which he sought to discourage migration to New York by stating the city’s shelter system is at capacity.

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