Public advocate letter prompts new homeless policies

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Homeless families with children will be able to stay overnight in a city shelter, even when they are denied long-term housing, Public Advocate Letitia James and Department of Homeless Services commissioner Gilbert Taylor announced today.

Families were previously given four hours to vacate after being deemed ineligible to stay.

The extended time is one of three new reforms the department announced today, which also include adding a D.H.S. hotline, and providing a detailed checklist explaining why an applicant did not qualify for shelter.

The changes were prompted by a letter James sent to Taylor during his first few days on the job.

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"That letter and that information that she provided on behalf of New York City shelter residents was something that was thought provoking," Taylor told reporters. "Something that made us reflect upon our practice and gave us an opportunity to think about ways in which we could have our system be a little more compassionate."

James said the extended overnight stay marks "a much more compassionate approach to dealing with clients."

James also mentioned that she is still in touch with Dasani Coates, the young girl who was profiled in a New York Times series highlighting the poor conditions in some of the city's shelters. (James featured Coates at her swearing-in, and named her a "special advisor." James also claimed some credit for the Times story, which the paper disputed.)

James said Dasani had stopped by her office with her sisters and dropped off a "shopping list" that included books, pencils, and paper, which James purchased and hand-delivered to Taylor, to be delivered to Dasani and her sisters.