Judge says NYC cannot force homeless to take workfare jobs

NEW YORK (AP) - A judge ruled Tuesday that New York City may not force homeless adults to accept workfare jobs in exchange for city shelter, a decision that was immediately blasted by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Justice Stanley Sklar said the law city officials cite in support of the requirement may be constitutional, but it violates a consent decree that requires the city to give shelter for every needy adult who seeks it.

Giuliani, who has pushed to put the workfare rules into effect, denounced Tuesday's decision, saying, ''I expect the Court of Appeals to reverse it pretty quickly.''

''Justice Sklar is clinging to his desire for a city of dependents,'' the mayor said.

Mary Brosnahan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, called the ruling a ''legal slam-dunk'' and said Sklar ''recognized that the consent decree's fundamental purpose was to save human life.''

Under the city program known as workfare, welfare recipients are put to work by city departments.

The law requiring the homeless to work stems from a 1995 regulation issued by the state Department of Social Services at the city's request. It requires anyone seeking shelter in New York - even for one night - to comply with welfare eligibility rules.

But in 1981 and 1983, the city signed consent decrees in which it agreed to provide shelter to every needy, single adult who asked for it.

Sklar ruled that the consent decrees hold. Because the agreements only cover single people, lawyers for the homeless could ask the courts to extend the ruling to homeless families with children.

The city did win a workfare ruling in the state's highest court Tuesday. The Court of Appeals upheld a ruling allowing the city to pay people on workfare minimum wage rather than the higher wages regular workers generally get for the same jobs.


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