This week, the city of New York settled a class action lawsuit
first brought by advocates for the homeless in 1983, reinstating a comprehensive plan to tackle homelessness that had been significantly hampered by the costly litigation.
The central suit, McCain v. Koch, alleged that New York City failed to offer sufficient or suitable emergency housing for homeless families. Since 1983, the McCain case has been joined by others, including complaints that families were illegally denied access to or prevented from applying for temporary housing. While other lawsuits
have forced the city to guarantee a right to shelter and protected the voting rights of the homeless, the McCain suit dragged on, hampering the Bloomberg administration's efforts to pursue its ambitious anti-homelessness agenda.
As recently as 2006, the city submitted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, pointing to the improvements and reforms made to the system since it was first filed. But the case continued, until this week, when the parties involved came to a settlement outlining a way forward. As reported in the New York Times:
"Under the settlement, the parties agreed a new case would be filed and, following a class action settlement hearing, all cases against the city and state, as well as the new one, would be dismissed."
The settlement outlines regulations and agency specifics to govern the city's policies for the homeless, and has been praised by both city officials and the plaintiffs. Some advocacy groups also favor the settlement, including the Coalition for the Homeless:
"We applaud today’s settlement of the McCain litigation. On the brink of open court testimony from mothers with children who have been relegated to sleeping on our sidewalks, in church basements, laundry mats, and other public spaces, the Bloomberg Administration has come to its senses and agreed to codify an enforceable Right to Shelter for families with vulnerable children."