Council to order mental health services at family shelters after Post exposé

The Department of Homeless Services would have to make mental health treatment and counseling widely available in its family shelter system under legislation being considered by the City Council after a Post exposé revealed inadequate access.

The bipartisan vote, expected Thursday, would require DHS to offer mental health services on location at its 30 biggest family shelters by July 2024 — and expand access across the entire system on either a part-time or full-time basis by July 2025.

Sources put the price tag for the program at approximately $40 million annually when fully implemented.

“My life was saved by mental health treatment when I was an adolescent,” the bill’s lead sponsor, Councilman Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan) said in a statement. “The truth is that the mental health care I received is virtually unavailable to most New Yorkers, especially families living in our shelter system.”

Councilman Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan) is pictured handing out literature about safety risks following a series of high-profile crimes targeting the patrons of LGBT night spots in this November 2022 shot.
Christopher Sadowski

Backers of the legislation run the gamut from self-described socialist Tiffany Cabán (D-Queens) to conservative firebrand Vicki Paladino (R-Queens) to Bob Holden (D-Queens), a frequent critic of DHS and the shelter system.

All told, roughly three-quarters of the Council — a veto-proof majority — have lined up in support.

There are more than 13,000 families with children currently living in the New York City shelters — and they account for the bulk nearly 71,000 people who call the system home.

Most families are forced into the system because of they are fleeing domestic violence or have suffered from a layoff or other economic shock that leaves them unable to pay rent.

The measure is expected to pass almost one year to the date after The Post revealed dramatic shortcomings in the mental health services offered to needy homeless New Yorkers as they navigate the Big Apple’s scandal-scarred shelter system.

Just nine of the city’s 247 shelters for families with children offer mental health services on-site — a rate of less than 4 percent.

The Department of Homeless Services’ intake at 30th Street on Manhattan’s East Side.

And fewer than half of the Big Apple’s specialized shelters meant to help the chronically homeless — just 18 out of 41 facilities — can offer on-site mental health services to needy clients, The Post has found.

“Becoming homeless in and of itself is traumatic,” said former Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who now heads the shelter non-profit, WIN.

“Whether you are evicted, escaping domestic abuse, fleeing to the United States and seeking asylum, or turning to shelter for another reason, there is trauma involved — and we as a city owe these families access to the mental health care they need,” she added.