This action, filed in 1983, challenged the City's and State's failure to provide safe, suitable and adequate emergency housing, assistance and services to homeless families with children, as mandated by Article XVII of the State Constitution, the Equal Protection clause, the State Social Services Law, and State regulations.
A landmark decision in this case holds that the Constitution and laws of the State of New York require New York City and State to provide emergency housing to all homeless families with children. McCain v. Koch, 117 A.D.2d 198 (1st Dept. 1986). Subsequent decisions have upheld the power of the courts to set minimum standards of decency and habitability for emergency shelters, McCain v. Koch, 70 N.Y.2d 109 (1987), and to compel officials to comply with those court-ordered standards. McCain v. Koch, 136 A.D.2d 473 (1st Dep't 1988); McCain v. Dinkins, 84 N.Y.2d 216 (1996). Together these cases resulted in the establishment, unusual in the United States, of a right to shelter in New York City
On August 16, 2005, the trial court found that the City's eligibility process for emergency shelter for families with children continued to result in serious errors and that "families who had been victims of violence or abuse or who clearly had no safe alternative shelter available were found ineligible" for emergency shelter. The court also found that State Administrative Memorandum 05 ADM-07, which would permit the City defendants to deny emergency shelter to some re-applicants, does not on its face conflict with Local Law § 21-313 or prior orders in the litigation.
On January 8, 2007, the plaintiffs moved for an order enjoining the City defendants from erroneously denying shelter to children and their families who are eligible for it, and erroneously determining that children and their families who reapply for shelter are ineligible for "immediate needs" shelter pursuant to the City's shelter re-application procedure. The plaintiffs claimed that at least one in three families to whom the City denied "immediate needs" shelter were eventually found to be eligible for ongoing shelter.
On September 7, 2005, the court permitted implementation of the ADM but directed the City to "make sure alternate housing is available" to applicant families with children before denying emergency shelter to them and to provide implementation progress reports to the court and the plaintiffs.
On September 19, 2008, after 25 years of litigation, spanning four mayoral administrations, the parties reached a settlement.
The main lawsuit being settled was McCain v. Koch, filed after similar lawsuits had been filed over the rights of homeless men and women. Those lawsuits had resulted in the establishment, unusual in the United States, of a right to shelter in New York City.
Under the settlement, the parties agreed a new case would be filed, captioned Boston v. City of New York, and, following a class action settlement hearing, all cases against the city and state, as well as the new one, would be dismissed. The city would regain full control and oversight of its family services system, "no longer having to enforce over 40 highly-detailed court orders or spend precious staff time and agency resources complying with or litigating these cases," City Hall said in a statement.Denise Heberle - 04/03/2012