March Volunteer Feature: Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP Partners with the Legal Aid Society to Protect the Right to Lawful Emergency Shelter for Homeless Single Men and Women
In 1981, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Legal Aid Society settled landmark litigation, Callahan v. Carey, with a consent decree which requires New York City to provide emergency shelter to each man who is homeless by reason of physical, mental or social dysfunction or who meets the need standard for public assistance. Two years later, the case of Eldredge v. Koch extended this right to shelter to homeless women. The consent decree also establishes minimum standards for conditions and services in adult shelters.
In December 2009, The Legal Aid Society and its co-counsel Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr were compelled to return to court to enforce the consent decree because the City had run out of shelter beds and did not have sufficient capacity to provide lawful shelter for all homeless women and men entitled to shelter under the consent decree. Instead, homeless New Yorkers were frequently left to sleep on chairs in City offices and the City also initiated the systemic use of "overnight" beds, transporting homeless adults nightly from one shelter to another and denying them services required by the consent decree, including lockers to secure their belongings and other assistance. After a period of round-the-clock litigation, the Court issued a temporary restraining order to stop these practices and the City responded by adding substantial numbers of new shelter beds to comply with the temporary restraining order and the consent decree.
The Wilmer litigation team consists of Keith Bradley, Michael G. Bongiorno, Matthew E. Draper, and Sarah K. Mohr. Steven Banks, the Society's Attorney-in-Chief, Scott Rosenberg, the Attorney-in-Charge of Law Reform for the Civil Practice, and Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney in the Homeless Rights Project, worked with the Wilmer team.