The Giuliani Administration is preparing to force some homeless families who live in apartment-style shelters to double up with other families, City Limits has learned. For the first time, the Department of Homeless Services is including language mandating private operators of existing Tier 2 shelters and the six city-run shelters slated for privatization this year to place two families in shelter “apartments” designed to accommodate one.
The new arrangement would be “like a college [dorm] situation,” said DHS commissioner Gordon Campbell, who testified at a hearing sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger on March 12.
Campbell told Messinger’s staffers that putting two families in apartments could only be done if the families were stable enough to handle crowded quarters and the apartments were designed to allow for separate bedrooms with locks for each family. Still, officials at nonprofits renegotiating contracts with the city say their agreements contain no such conditions, only a terse provision that the city has the right to require double-ups.
The city has already begun doubling up at its shelter in Springfield Gardens, Queens, Campbell said.
“Once again, the city is avoiding its obligation to provide decent shelter for these people. It’s another nail in the city’s bed-of-nails housing policy,” said Stephen Banks of Legal Aid’s Homeless Family Rights Project, which is suing the administration over its homeless policies. “If the city intends on pursuing this course of action, then we’re certainly prepared to take legal action to prevent this from happening.”
Expansion of doubling-up is not expected to take place anytime soon. In fact, there are currently more than 200 vacancies in the Tier 2 system due to stricter admission policies instituted last year. However, the number of homeless families seeking permanent shelter generally increases in the summer.
Attempts to contact DHS officials for comment were unsuccessful.