Despite this winter actually acting wintry and cold, NYC homeless shelters have been turning away homeless families on freezing nights if they cannot prove they have nowhere else to go, the Daily News is reporting. Turning homeless individuals and families away has long been a practice of New York City's Department of Homeless Services, which relentlessly insists that you must stay with a relative or at some prior living arrangement if it is still available to you, leaving many homeless no choice but to sleep on the street rather than return to a bad living situation.
But what makes this shift in policy different is that these families are still being turned away during a "code blue" — when the city declares temperatures dangerously cold and has tried in the past to get as many people indoors and safe as possible. The Daily News describes a family's ordeal:
Take Junior Clarke, 23, and his family. The dad said city workers told him to leave the Bronx PATH Center - an intake hub for families - during a cold snap last month.
"They tried to send us outside into the cold," said Clarke, 23, who was with his his wife, Kaneesha, 23, and 4-year-old daughter, Janiah. "They threatened to have us thrown out by police."
The city historically invoked "code blue" status when the temperature dipped below freezing, easing shelter restrictions to get people indoors.
It's not clear when, exactly, the city altered its policy and started enforcing rules requiring some shelter residents to prove they have nowhere else to go - even on cold winter nights.
The Clarke's story is pretty boilerplate for many families left out in the cold by DHS. They were told to go back to a relative's house that was on file from a 2008 stay in the shelter system, a house they were no longer welcomed at. Luckily the Clarke's refused to leave the shelter, instead contacting The Legal Aid Society which "convinced intake workers to give the family a place to stay for the night." Despite the happy ending for the Clarke family, a good amount of homeless individuals and families end up sleeping outdoors in freezing weather.
The city recently admitted to changing their "code blue" policy last winter.
[Image by Getty]