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Cuomo orders homeless to seek shelter during cold spells

It's questionable whether the order would stand up under legal scrutiny.
By Brooks Hays   |   Jan. 3, 2016 at 7:42 PM
| License Photo

ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 3 (UPI) -- On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order require all homeless people to seek shelter when temperatures drop below freezing.

The order directs state agencies -- including police, social services and others -- to take "all necessary steps to identify individuals reasonably believed to be homeless and unwilling or unable to find the shelter necessary for safety and health in inclement winter weather, and move such individuals to the appropriate sheltered facilities."

The directive goes into effect Tuesday.

A 2015 count tallied 88,250 homeless people in New York, statewide -- the highest homelessness rate since the Great Depression.

It's questionable whether the order would stand up under legal scrutiny, and critics have quickly questioned how it will be implemented -- specifically the part about "involuntary placement" of homeless into shelters.

"It's about love," Cuomo said in an interview with radio station NY1. "It's about compassion. It's about helping one another and basic human decency."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also taken steps to combat the issue of homelessness in recent weeks, as the two politicians continue to trade barbs over the other's ability to tackle the problem.

After Cuomo questioned whether de Blasio was up to the task, the mayor pointed the finger at Cuomo and lawmakers in Albany, saying funding cuts to social services was exacerbating the situation. Most recently, de Blasio questioned whether he or anyone else has the authority to forcibly relocate a homeless person.

"We are doing everything we can to protect homeless individuals from freezing weather under the law." de Blasio's press secretary, Karen Hinton, said in a statement. "We support the intent of the executive order, but to forcibly remove all homeless individuals in freezing weather, as the governor has ordered, will require him to pass state law."

Cuomo said state agencies should worry about doing their jobs and following the directive; he said it was his job, not theirs, to handle any potential lawsuits.

"This is a state law," Cuomo told CBS. "This is the interpretation of the state law. If there is any challenge to the law, I will defend it."

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