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Judge pauses NYC’s push to evict homeless from hotels

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A federal judge on Tuesday halted New York City’s push to move 8,000 homeless New Yorkers from hotels and into shelters.

The ruling comes after the Legal Aid Society filed a motion accusing the Department of Homeless Services of violating the rights of people with medical and mental health problems.

DHS is now temporarily blocked from moving anyone with a health condition that might qualify for a waiver to avoid the shelter system, petitioners said.

DHS allegedly failed to perform required health screenings, which potentially endangered homeless people with special needs.

“Today’s decision affirms that the City rushed the moves of homeless New Yorkers from safe placements in hotels back to crowded shelters without meeting its obligations, endangering the lives of New York’s most vulnerable residents,” the Legal Aid Society’s Josh Goldfein and Jenner & Block Partner Dawn Smalls said in a joint statement Tuesday.

The ruling will require the DHS to temporarily stop moving about 5,000 people still being housed in 37 emergency hotel shelters back into the city’s congregate shelter system, according to advocates. Some 3,000 people that were staying in 23 hotels during the pandemic have already been moved.

“We will monitor the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) compliance with today’s order, and expect DHS to follow its legal obligations to ensure that our clients with disabilities and/or medical conditions are assigned to placements that best meet their needs,” said Deborah Diamant, Esq., director of government relations and legal affairs at the Coalition for the Homeless.

“However, we are disappointed that we had to seek judicial intervention to force DHS to end its feverish rush to exit hotels and send individuals back to congregate shelters where they are at greater risk for contracting the virus that causes COVID-19,” Diamant added.

Officials at the DHS did not immediately return a request for comment from The Post Tuesday night.

On Friday, spokesman Isaac McGinn confirmed the department was holding off moving people from three hotels after a judge issued a stay ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.

“The health, safety, and wellbeing of the New Yorkers we serve as they get back on their feet is our number one priority – that’s why we’re continuing our comprehensive COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs, making it as easy as possible for our clients to get tested and vaccinated by delivering these free, vital resources directly to clients where they are,” he said.

In court papers filed Friday, lawyers successfully argued that pre-existing conditions put many homeless people at a “higher risk of severe consequences” if they contracted COVID-19.

Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio argued that the shelters were sufficiently safe, and it would be easier to provide healthcare and social services to homeless people in need there.

“It is time to move homeless folks who were in hotels for a temporary period of time back to shelters, where they can get the support they need,” de Blasio said at the time.

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