11/11/2011 01:52 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

NYC Delays Homeless Shelter Screening Policy

City officials have decided to postpone the start of a controversial policy that seeks to interview people seeking homeless shelters in order to determine they are in fact homeless and do not have any other sleeping options available.

The policy, which would have started next Monday, has received immense criticism from City Council members and homeless advocates including the Coalition for the Homeless, who say the "dangerous" and "misguided" new rules would severely limit those in need from receiving emergency shelter.

In an interview with The Times on Thursday, City Council speaker Christine Quinn condemned the proposed policy, insisting it was "harassing" and "mean-spirited."

Quinn declared the postponement a victory, even if temporary:

I am pleased that, as a result of today’s court hearing, the city's dangerous new policy changing the intake procedure for single adults seeking shelter will not go into effect on Monday. I am encouraged that this matter will be heard by the court, and I continue to call on DHS [Department of Homeless Services] to permanently reverse course and prevent these harmful changes from going into effect.

As recently as last week, the Bloomberg administration said they would be imposing the stricter rules, having received the green light from the state.

However, the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance challenged the imposition in a letter that insisted the state had in fact not given approval, but instead only said the policy was "not consistent with state law."

The Coalition and Legal Aid testified the following statement on Wednesday:

The proposed eligibility rules are flawed and dangerous enough on their face, but even more when one considers that the population that would be affected -- homeless single men and women -- is characterized by very high incidence of mental illness and other serious health problems.

Earlier this week, criticism towards the Bloomberg administration worsened after a report revealed the number of people sleeping in city shelters reaching a staggering 41,000, marking it the first time shelters had exceeded the 40,000 mark.

The new rules will be delayed until a December 9th court hearing.