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NATIONAL COALITION v. UNITED STATES VA

September 30, 1988

NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE UNITED STATES VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH

 OLIVER GASCH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 I. Background

 This case is before the Court on plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction to prohibit the defendants from selling any property eligible for use under section 501 of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act until they have complied with that section of the Act. The McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11301 et seq., was intended "to use public resources and programs in a more coordinated manner to meet the critically urgent needs of the homeless." Id. § 11301(b)(2). The Act consists of nine titles providing food, shelter, education, training, health services, and housing for the homeless. Section 501 of the Act, codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 11411-12, sets out a process by which surplus federal property is to be made available to assist the homeless. The statute requires HUD to collect information about federal buildings and real properties "that are described in surveys by the heads of controlling agencies as underutilized." Id. § 11411(a). HUD is to identify which of these underutilized properties "are suitable for use for facilities to assist the homeless." Id. HUD is instructed to consult with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Administrator of General Services (GSA) when developing the criteria for the suitability determination. HUD must then notify the respective agency heads as to which of their properties have been identified as suitable. Id. § 11411(b). Within thirty days, the agency heads must either declare the identified property as "excess" to their needs or explain why it is not excess. Finally, HHS and GSA are to make the properties identified by HUD available to the homeless by the use of leases at least one year in duration. Id. § 11411(c). *fn1"

 Plaintiffs are numerous homeless organizations made up of or representing homeless persons, and an individual living in New York City. Plaintiff Association to Benefit Children (ABC) seeks to provide housing, food, day care, and other assistance to homeless children and their families in New York City. Plaintiff Middlesex Interfaith Partnership with the Homeless (MIPH) provides food, shelter, and other services to homeless families in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Plaintiff H.O.M.E. front, made up of homeless and formerly homeless persons in Phoenix, is an advocate for the the homeless. Plaintiff National Coalition for the Homeless is an national advocate for the homeless and a provider of services to the homeless in New York City. Plaintiff John Croft is a homeless man. The defendants are five federal agencies: the Veterans' Administration (VA), the General Services Administration (GSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 Plaintiffs contend that the government agencies have failed to comply with the provisions of section 501. They allege that defendants VA, GSA, and DOD have not conducted the requisite surveys of their properties or identified which of them are underutilized, and that HUD has not collected this information or identified suitable properties. They also maintain that VA, GSA, and DOD have not declared their identified properties as excess or stated why they cannot do so. Finally, defendants GSA and HHS have allegedly failed to make the suitable properties available to assist the homeless.

 
- Where existing buildings are identified, they should be suitable for overnight shelter or daytime activities (drop-in centers, soup kitchens, etc). Where vacant land is available, it should also be reported. Both should have or be in a condition which minimum renovation would provide safe and sanitary facilities and meet all applicable state and local housing and building codes and licensing requirements in the jurisdiction in which the facility is located.
 
- Properties should be in locations where they can reasonably be expected to be of use as facilities to assist the homeless. Isolated properties, such as those in national parks remote from where the homeless are located, should not be included on the list.
 
- Properties should not be in secured facilities, to which the general public is denied access unless alternative access can be provided for the general public without compromising security.
 
- In addition, agencies should indicate current structure design and use:
 
Residential
 
Health ...

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