Council Passes Bill for More Data on Families With Children in Shelters

Image credit: New York City Council.

On February 2, 2023, the New York City Council approved Local Law 26, which would more closely monitor the status of the City’s most vulnerable families—those who live in shelters. The new law was originally introduced in 2022 by Council Member Kevin C. Riley as Introduction 421. Local Law 26 now requires the NYC Department of Homeless Services to report more regularly on the status of families with children living in shelters.

The new law tasks the Department of Homeless Services with gathering information regarding the number of families living in shelters, and measuring the average period of time that families remain at these shelters. Reports would show the number of families who leave shelters for permanent housing. More specific metrics would gauge the school enrollment and attendance records of children living in shelters, in addition to the transfer rate for these children. These metrics will inform the City Council’s approach to remedying inefficiencies in the shelter system.

At a public hearing held by the City Council Committee on General Welfare, Council Member Riley observed that, “to effectively address the crisis of homelessness, we must continue to understand the ins and outs of the shelter system.”  The Council Committee Report revealed the need for more relevant metrics due to inefficiencies in city shelters such as lack of mental health services and the need for customer service and de-escalation training for shelter employees.

Several organizations testified in support of the bill, including Homeless Services United and Brooklyn Defender Services. Homeless Services United noted its support for the bill because of its belief in transparency of the sector and the need to better understand the needs of clients in shelters. Brooklyn Defender Services, a non-profit legal services organization that provides free counsel to the indigent, highlighted the importance of the bill as Housing Court case filings increase, evictions resume, and rent hikes continue.

Local Law 26 was signed by the mayor on February 21, 2023, and took effect immediately, and the Department of Homeless Services is due to submit its first report beginning October 1, 2023. Reports will be submitted to the City Council Speaker on a quarterly basis thereafter.

By: Jacqueline Lacovara (Jacqueline is a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)

CC: Stated Meeting (Int. 421- 2022, February 2, 2023.)


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