Failures by the city’s homeless agency to properly investigate applications by families seeking entry to a city homeless shelter have resulted in more than two out of five families being rejected, despite repeated applications, an audit by the city comptroller’s office found.
The audit by Comptroller Brad Lander’s office found that 21 out of 50 families sampled were rejected by the Department of Homeless Services because they could not provide proof of their housing histories over the previous two years. The agency had ways to assist those families in verifying their previous housing but did not use them, the audit said.
Around 14 out of 21 families rejected by the agency submitted an average of 15 reapplications before they were deemed eligible for a shelter, the agency found.
“Families seeking shelter should not have to face homelessness and be subjected to a revolving door of denials due to the failure of PATH intake personnel to run an online search,” said Lander in releasing the audit findings.
Families with children who apply for shelter must file an application at the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH) intake center in the Bronx. They go through an eligibility verification process in which Department of Homeless Services staff determine whether the family has available and safe housing options other than a city shelter.
The Department of Homeless Services has 10 days to determine eligibility and during that time, families must be provided conditional shelter. Materials that families are asked to provide include letters from landlords, eviction notices, medical reports and school records.
The audit did find that families were being temporarily sheltered, as required, while their
applications were reviewed. However, because verification procedures were not fully followed, the agency “incurred a significant risk that families were delayed or denied temporary housing assistance for which they may have been eligible,” the audit report said.
In light of the findings, the Department of Homeless Services said it would adjust its procedures and training to ensure its staff conducts database research to assist applicants in documenting their housing history, including obtaining any pertinent hospital records, and they would make phone calls and physical visits, when necessary, to confirm housing information.
“With a new mayor in office who is committed to ending homelessness, this report should serve as a clarion call for the Adams administration to fundamentally reform PATH,” said Christine Quinn, president & CEO of Win, a provider of shelter and supportive services to homeless families. “Our families deserve pathways to shelter, support, services and housing, not bureaucratic roadblocks.”