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Newark Lawsuit Demands NYC Stop Relocating Forgotten Families

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - For nearly a year, CBS2 has been reporting on the forgotten families allegedly pressured to move out of city shelters and into dilapidated homes in New Jersey.

Now one destination city is taking action to stop the program from relocating any more homeless families, reports CBS2's Lisa Rozner.

Under the Special One-Time Assistance program, or SOTA, the families are placed in New Jersey by New York's Department of Homeless Services.

The city pays landlords one year's rent up front, but CBS2 found some landlords providing housing with no heat or hot water, infestations of mice and other problems.

DOCUMENT 1: Verified Complaint December 1 2019

DOCUMENT 2: Brief in Support of Order to Show Cause

The documents specifically name Mayor Bill de Blasio and Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services head Steven Banks as defendants in the suit.

The Newark lawsuit claims neither de Blasio nor Banks adequately inspected the apartments to where these families were being sent, nor did they hold landlords or real estate brokers accountable for uninhabitable housing.

After the initial one-year term, the lawsuit also points out the families were forced out and new SOTA participants could be moved in. Multiple testimonials are included in the suit.

Right now there are around 1,200 SOTA recipients living in Newark, but New York will not disclose who or where they are. This lawsuit would also require New York to identify all of them.

The documents also cite the "Forgotten Families" series by CBS2 as being the trigger that brought these cases to light to both to members of the DHS and officials in Newark.

Last week the mayors of four New Jersey municipalities moved to make governments like New York City notify them when families are moved there.

On Monday, Newark went further and filed a brief demanding a temporary suspension against SOTA, alleging New York sent homeless families to hundreds of cities across the country without the destination cities being informed.

Avery Cohen, de Blasio's spokesperson, released the following response:

"Cities must collaborate and find innovative solutions to our nationwide homelessness crisis. With more than 5,000 families helped so far, SOTA gives families the opportunity to seek permanent stability wherever they can find it and empowers them to make decisions that work in their families' best interest. Denial of this opportunity amounts to nothing less than income-based discrimination. We look forward to working with other localities on proactive solutions to address these issues on the regional and national level."

A Newark nonprofit says at least 15 families this year needed public assistance after one year's rent ran out. The mayors say they want the opportunity to support these families before they're left out in the cold.

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