A “Homeless Bill of Rights” became law over the weekend thanks to New York Mayor Eric Adams, a move that proponents claim will increase legal safeguards for the city’s unhoused population.
Bipartisan support helped the bill pass the City Council in April as city shelters were overflowing due to the arrival of 70,000 international refugees since last spring.
The new law explicitly recognizes the freedom to sleep outdoors in public locations, though not just anywhere.
Other regulations in New York City may set restrictions on where people experiencing homelessness can sleep outside.
Police can remove anyone obstructing traffic flow from the sidewalks and roadways. At 1 a.m., most city parks close.
Additionally, sleeping is typically not permitted on private property.
The law also includes protections to stop someone from being assigned to locations that don’t match their gender identity and allows people to protest about shelter accommodations without facing the consequences.
Additionally, it grants applicants the ability to request rental help and mandates that parents residing in shelters receive diapers for their children.
The Homeless Bill of Rights was primarily sponsored by Jumaane Williams, the elected public advocate for New York City, who claimed it was essential to inform those utilizing the shelter system that they had a right to fair and courteous treatment.
The 1981 court ruling requiring the city to give temporary accommodation to everyone who requests it and the 1981 ordinance restate that New Yorkers have a right to shelter.
As a result of the influx of migrants crossing the southern border of the United States over the past year, New York City has had a tremendous amount of difficulty fulfilling that commitment.
Without counting the additional thousands of persons housed by other organizations, such as those fleeing domestic abuse, the city’s Department of Homeless Services is now providing shelter to 81,000 people.
The city has rented out entire hotels and located temporary residences in neighboring counties to make additional rooms.
Adams, a Democrat, most recently requested that a judge temporarily exclude the city from a decades-old, legally mandated commitment to provide shelter to anybody in need.
The mayor stated that the city was not attempting to abolish New Yorkers’ special “right to shelter” but to suspend the duty to provide homes when its shelter system is overburdened.
Williams and other homeless rights activists objected to loosening the shelter regulations, saying it might encourage more people to sleep outside.
Williams said last week: “In addressing this moment and its genuine urgency and scope, we should not be focusing efforts on removing the rights of the most marginalized.”
The mayor’s strategy for combating homelessness, which has occasionally involved sweeps of outdoor encampments and subway areas, has drawn criticism from advocates for the homeless.