NEW YORK (AP) — New York state's highest appeals court struck down on Tuesday a city plan to impose strict new requirements on people trying to enter homeless shelters.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration aimed to require that homeless adults prove they had no other housing options in order to gain admittance to a city-run shelter.
The Court of Appeals ruled against that policy, affirming a lower court's decision on a lawsuit brought by the city council and its speaker, Christine Quinn.
"We are extremely pleased with today's decision which prevents the Department of Homeless Services from implementing a policy that would have kept thousands of homeless men and women out of shelter," Quinn said in a statement.
The rule requiring proof of homelessness has long applied to homeless families, but the Department of Homeless Services tried to expand it to individuals in 2011.
That plan never went into effect, due to the city council's lawsuit. The shelter population has surged under Bloomberg's tenure, to more than 50,000.
Homeless advocates praised the ruling.
"When Mayor Bloomberg proposed new rules to deny shelter to our most frail neighbors, we knew that it would undoubtedly result in many more homeless people sleeping on our streets," said a spokesman for the Coalition for the Homeless, "and we are so very grateful New York's highest court effectively stopped the mayor in his tracks."
Advocates say the current policy already strands homeless families and would have been even harsher on single adults because they are more likely to have substance abuse or mental health problems that could make it more difficult to prove their housing status.
The Bloomberg administration criticized the appeals court's ruling.
"Shelter should be a last resort, when all other resources have been exhausted," said Thomas Crane, chief of the city's Law Department's general litigation division. "We are disappointed with the court's decision today."
Bloomberg is leaving office at the end of the year. The mayor-elect, Bill de Blasio, has been critical of the Bloomberg administration's record on homelessness.