By Kevin Deutsch
Homeless teens and young adults in the Bronx will have far greater access to shelter beds under a court settlement reached Monday, attorneys said.
The legal agreement, forged by lawyers from the Legal Aid Society and New York City, expands access to homeless and runaway youth programs serving New Yorkers aged 16 to 20, while also ensuring they have access to mental health services, attorneys said.
The City agreed it would guarantee residential program beds to all 16- and 17-year-olds who request them, and provide enough money to maintain the current number of beds and homeless services as long as they are needed.
Under the agreement, the City must also make plans to add shelter beds should need for them arise.
“After over six years of litigation, we are very pleased to have reached a settlement, which will establish system-changing relief to some of New York City’s most vulnerable youth,” said Beth Hofmeister, Staff Attorney in the Homeless Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society, which sued on behalf of homeless teens turned away from shelters.
“We could not have successfully brought this case without our eleven named plaintiffs who bravely came forward to better the lives of thousands of other runaway and homeless youth,” Hofmeister added. “This settlement will ensure that homeless youth in circumstances similar to those of our clients will not have to jump the same hurdles when simply seeking the vital shelter and supportive services they want and need.”
The case, C.W. v. The City of New York, was filed in December 2013 by Legal Aid and Patterson Belknap on behalf of a group of runaway and homeless young people who were denied essential services and shelter by the City, attorneys said.
The lawsuit alleged the City violated their rights under federal law, New York City Human Rights Law, and a state statute — the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 1978 — by failing to provide, or ejecting them from, youth shelters, the lawyers said.
Since the lawsuit’s filing, the City has increased the total number of youth shelter beds from 253 in 2013 to 753 beds today, according to Legal Aid.