Day Before Deadline, Court Blocks Eviction Date for Sandy Victims
On Monday night, a state supreme court ordered that the city temporarily halt its eviction of Hurricane Sandy victims from hotels. Slightly less than 200 households were to face their move-out deadline today, including 125 families that had nowhere to go, and 71 that the Department of Homeless Services claimed didn't want help.
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Read more: Hurricane Sandy Victims Kicked Out of Hotels, Nowhere to Go
"One of those families was offered a three-quarters house, which the DHS agreed three years ago to stop placing families in because it's so dangerous," Councilman Brad Lander told the Voice after a hearing on Friday.
The class-action complaint, filed by the Legal Aid Society, that sought out the injunction argued that "the City's casework services are unreliable at best and counterproductive at worst." While DHS extended one deadline to the end of May for households that had already been linked up to housing, the complaint noted that the evacuees' new housing might not even be ready for them by that time.
The temporary restraining order followed a hearing held last Friday, during which City Council members held DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond to task for arbitrarily setting the deadlines and unsatisfyingly helping relocate families. While several of these households attended the hearing and protested outside, Celine (who didn't want to be identified by her real name for fear of retribution) was scrambling to find housing for herself and her family with a $1,600 Section 8 voucher. When the Voice reached Celine by phone on Friday, she was at the realtor's office.
"I've been looking every day. I haven't seen anything that applies to me," she told the Voice. That day, Celine, who has a 17-year-old son, was shown a 3-bedroom apartment, but couldn't afford it. "The one I saw yesterday was a bungalow, but they don't take bungalows because they consider them vacation homes."
"Each day they've been telling me that it's my final day there," Celine said. "[My caseworker] told me they'd take me directly to the shelter."
"The temporary restraining order issued this evening was done in clear violation of the law requiring the city to receive notice before a TRO can be entered," Thomas Crane, chief of the general litigation division in the city's law department, told the Wall Street Journal. Crane also told the paper that the city would be in court Tuesday morning to fight the order.