New York City Fined for Failure to Accomodate Homeless People with AIDS
A New York Supreme Court judge on Thursday fined the administration of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for violating a 1999 decree requiring the city to "provide prompt and proper shelter" for homeless people with AIDS on the same day that they seek help, the New York Times reports. Justice Emily Jane Goodman ruled that the city's AIDS service industry failed to house five people who qualified for assistance and fined the city $250 per person for each night housing was denied, in addition to having the city cover each person's legal bills. She did not render a decision on 17 other similar complaints. City officials vowed to appeal, calling the ruling "unfair," and New York City Corporation Counsel spokesperson Lorna Goodman said, "Since Jan. 1 alone, we've housed over 8,000 people in this program. To be in contempt, there has to be a significant violation. There were only five cases, and they were all in housing by the next night." But Housing Works, a not-for-profit group that represented the plaintiffs, said the city was "a flagrant violator." Housing Works attorney Armen Merjian said, "These ... people are just a sample of at least hundreds of cases. Since August, the city has been systematically failing to comply, causing serious trouble and even life-threatening problems for many people with AIDS." He noted that the city program often sends people to the wrong addresses, or places them in group shelters in violation of guidelines. AIDS patients are vulnerable to tuberculosis and other diseases in such shelters, he explained, and some need a refrigerator to store medications, special food and a bathroom because of intestinal disorders. "The basic problem is the city's failure to build more housing for people with AIDS and diverting millions of dollars in federal funds earmarked for housing," Merjian said, but city officials contend that they "do more to help the homeless and people with AIDS than any other local government in the nation" (Lambert, New York Times, 5/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.