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Cold Shoulder: Proving You're Homeless on a Freezing Night

Ilana Novick

Homeless families in New York City seeking relief from the extreme cold used to be supported by the city’s Code Blue policy, which requires homeless shelters to admit anyone who comes to their doors in below freezing temperatures. Since late 2011 however, the Bloomberg Administration has quietly changed the policy to a version in which only those who can prove they have no other alternatives are allowed admittance into shelters. Advocates for the homeless sued in March of 2012 to appeal the policy.

According to Patrick Markee, an analyst with the Coalition for the Homeless who spoke with the Daily News, the agency noticed more and more families were being turned away, but the city was slow to admit they had changed the policy, which has been in effect since November 2011, when the City announced it would require single adults to prove they have no other place to go. Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond claimed in 2012 that the new policy would reduce the shelter population by about 10 percent and save the city $4 million a year.

Proof, however, remains both a vague criteria and difficult to provide for a family urgently seeking relief from life threatening temperatures.