Fix NYC’s Broken Homeless Intake System for Families with Children

Fix NYC’s Broken Homeless Intake System for Families with Children

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Win NYC started this petition to New York City Council and

Every night, nearly 15,000 children in New York City go to sleep in homeless shelters. Family homelessness is a crisis, with disastrous consequences, especially for children.  New York City is not doing enough to support these families on the path to stable housing.

Even though homeless New Yorkers have a legal right to shelter, the City's intake system for families with children facing homelessness -- known as Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing assessment center or “PATH” -- erects major barriers to shelter. The PATH system begins its intake process by forcing homeless families to prove their status as homeless, and to provide burdensome levels of evidence, including pulling their children out of school so they can be present at the intake center, forcing parents to take the day off from work, traveling to the PATH intake center in the Bronx with all of a family’s possessions, sitting for multiple interviews during which they must recount their story of hardship, and providing two years of housing records that is then investigated by PATH staff known as “fraud investigators.”

The PATH system further disrupts the lives of families facing homelessness and repeatedly traumatizes them by offering shelter on a “conditional” basis for 10 days, then often finding that they are ineligible for shelter due to technical reasons, forcing them out of this conditional shelter and back to the PATH center to reapply. In an analysis of more than 1,000 families found eligible for shelter during May 2019, more than 42 percent had to submit two applications and 22 percent had to submit at least three applications.

In 2018, over 500 families served by Win (the largest provider of shelter and supportive services for homeless families in NYC) entered shelter at least twice that year -- two-thirds of them because they had previously been placed there conditionally and then found ineligible. The vast majority of ineligible decisions for Win families -- roughly 85 percent -- were due to PATH finding a family’s housing history was incomplete.

Join Win and other advocates in calling on the Mayor, the Department of Homeless Services, and the City Council to reform PATH now. Together, we can turn this system of roadblocks into a true pathway to support, shelter, and stable housing by:

  • Making permanent the common-sense reforms enacted during the pandemic, including not requiring children to join their parents at PATH and allowing families determined ineligible because of incomplete information to stay in their shelter while they re-apply.
  • Reducing the documents required for a family to be deemed eligible for shelter, beginning with reducing the required housing history from two years to one.
  • Accepting a family’s attestation for the reasons they cannot return to a previous residence as true, rather than assuming they are being dishonest.
  • Placing Intake Navigators at PATH who can provide clear information and support to families going through the application process.
  • Halting practices that force families and children to miss school and work to spend the entire day -- sometimes more than once -- at PATH, including by providing pre-scheduled meetings in specific time windows.
  • Requiring all staff at PATH that interact with families to be trained in trauma-informed care.
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