State Judge Orders New York City to Pay 17 AIDS Patients For Nights Without Shelter
New York state Supreme Court Justice Emily Goodman yesterday found the city of New York in contempt of a 1999 court order requiring the city to "secure rooms with refrigerators by midnight on the day a homeless person with AIDS or HIV seeks it," and ordered the city to pay 17 AIDS patients $250 each for every night they were denied shelter, the New York Times reports. Last month, Goodman cited and fined the city for not providing "medically appropriate" shelter to five HIV-positive homeless men, but reserved judgment on the 12 other cases. Yesterday, she ruled that the city "denied all 17 people their right to shelter." In her 33-page decision, Goodman said some of the 17 plaintiffs had been "left on the streets, in the rain or in the freezing cold" because they were "turned away" by hotels the city used as "emergency shelter," were supplied with incorrect addresses or were sent to shelters that were "unprepared" to assist them. City officials, who "acknowledged" violations in the May cases, denied violating the rights of the additional 12 people and said they will appeal the ruling. Michael Hess, a lawyer for the city, said the problems were "isolated cases" resulting from "clerical errors" and added that the city "did everything it could" to comply with the court order. He also said that Goodman was "philosophically biased against the city" and said he was considering filing a motion to have her "removed" from the case. Homeless advocates said the violations were "so easy to find that they suspected a much more widespread problem" (Kershaw, New York Times, 6/21). "On any given night, we can feel pretty confident that hundreds of people have often been ... without shelter. (The city) has repeatedly denied that there is any crisis and that there is any hardship or even a single violation," Armen Merjian, a lawyer for Housing Works, the advocacy group that brought the case, said (Colangelo, New York Daily News, 6/21). Last fall, a federal judge in Brooklyn ordered the city's Division of AIDS Services and Income Support, the agency charged with providing housing and services for HIV/AIDS patients, to be placed under federal oversight, saying the agency had "depriv[ed] thousands" of people of "adequate" food, shelter and medical care (New York Times, 6/21).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.