The city is changing its policy to let homeless people in its shelters, a move that worries advocates. Starting Friday, anyone arriving at the Bronx intake shelter after 5PM who has had their living situations investigated (many people been investigated when they apply for long-term housing) and were deemed ineligible for housing will be questioned again and turned away if nothing has changed. The city views this as a way to close a loophole that has been abused by families who may have other options, like staying with a friend or relative. From the NY Times:

The city had allowed families who had been ruled ineligible to be given shelter for one night if they reapplied after 5 p.m. Some families using this emergency provision would keep their belongings with them and repeat the process [see this earlier Times article], moving to a new shelter the next day, often late at night, the city said.

“Families began to realize if they came in after 5 they could evade that accountability,” said Linda I. Gibbs, the city’s deputy mayor for health and human services. “What we are doing now is closing the loophole.”

The number of families using emergency shelter increased this past summer, and the city and advocates alike believe that some families have been using emergency shelters for weeks, even months. Still, the Coalition for the Homeless issued a statement criticizing the new policy, noting that it may "force many homeless families to return to unsafe living situations or out onto the street," and that when the Bloomberg administration conducted a pilot of this program, the Coalition "ended up paying to shelter many of these families in hotel rooms and almost all were later deemed eligible for shelter" - because the denials were incorrect.

The Coalition adds that in spite of the Mayor's promises, homelessness is up 11% over last year and the number of families in shelters is at a record high. The Coalition has information about how family homelessness is due to housing affordability, not welfare, here.

Photograph of a homeless woman by New York Daily Photo