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In its efforts to wriggle free of court oversight of its homeless policies, the city may be overselling its own success. At a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg proudly announced that the Special Master Panel, a three-person team appointed in 2003 to evaluate the city’s shelter system, had recommended an end to legal mandates. “This is a tremendous vote of confidence in our administration’s reforms,” he said. And it’s true: The panel lauded the city for rehousing 7,000 families in 2004, streamlining its shelter intake procedures, and establishing prevention programs in six neighborhoods, among other victories. But the panel fell short of giving the city a gold star. While all three members (John Feerick, Daniel Kronenfeld, and Gail Nayowith) support an end to the litigation, they differ widely on a timeline. Only one, not identified by name in the report, wants to end the litigation immediately—“as soon as is practicable by the court.” Another wants the litigation to continue for six months, while an Ombuds Review Board is established. The third believes it will take a year or more for the city to prove its new programs work. That skepticism was echoed in a report issued just hours earlier by the Coalition for the Homeless. It found that more city children experienced homelessness in 2004 than in 2003, and that homeless families continue to reside in shelters for nearly a year before finding permanent housing. [02/22/05]

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