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Forgotten Families: CBS2 Has Latest On Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against New York City And Newark

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Here's a major update on CBS2's award-winning investigation into the "Forgotten Families."

In 2019, we started uncovering some New York City families who were moved out of homeless shelters and into dilapidated homes in New Jersey.

Now, a new class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of those families and others, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Sunday.

It was not once, but twice, that New York City managed to move Shakira Jones and her young children out of a city shelter and into unsafe apartments in Newark.

MORE: 'Forgotten Families' Continuing Coverage

Jones has since asked CBS2 to conceal her face, but in February 2019 she said, "My heat would go out. I was in here for days with my children for days with no electricity."

Jones, like others CBS2 profiled, was relocated through the New York City Special One-Time Assistance program or SOTA.

Forgotten Families
The ceiling inside Nikita White's bathroom in her home in Newark. (Photo: CBS2)

New York City's Department of Homeless Services, or DHS, paid landlords across the river one year's rent up front to house eligible working homeless families. The idea was, after the year, families could pay their own rent. But because the homes were uninhabitable, Jones moved back to a New York City shelter.

MOREForgotten Families: Record Number Of Arrests Connected To Housing Scheme Uncovered By CBS2

She is now the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society and law firm Lowenstein Sandler against New York City and Newark.

It cites CBS2 reporting.

"We represent people who have already moved there and we represent people who would like to move there," Legal Aid Society attorney Joshua Goldfein said.

MOREForgotten Families: Family Living In Shelter Says City Staff Dropped The Ball When They Tried To Move Before Peak Of Coronavirus Pandemic

Legal Aid estimates one-third of the nearly 54,000 people in New York City shelters qualify for SOTA, but Newark is not allowing them to move there.

"Newark is unfairly stigmatizing people who have lived in New York City shelters," Goldfein said. "People have a right to move wherever they want to move and here they have a group of people who are working and anxious to get on with their lives and they would be great citizens of Newark and Newark doesn't seem to get that."

The lawsuit also calls on New York City to put in writing the new SOTA inspection rules, which were announced after the city's Department of Investigation found multiple flaws last December.

A New York City spokesperson said the city has made substantive improvements to the SOTA program, including its apartment review process and shifting to paying landlords monthly instead of yearly.

The spokesperson said the challenge does not have merit and the city will defend against it.

No one from Newark got back to CBS2.


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