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Steve Banks Featured in The New York Times Magazine for Delivering Transformative Change to New York City’s Most Vulnerable Families and Individuals
February 2, 2022
Pro Bono special counsel Steve Banks was featured in The New York Times Magazine article, “The Man Who Fought Homelessness and Won (Sort Of).” The article provides an in-depth history of Steve’s unique and deeply humane approach to the complex challenge of modern mass homelessness, as well as his exceptional legal contributions over the course of his career at Legal Aid and as a City Commissioner to the ongoing battle to fight homelessness in New York City.
During Steve’s tenure as commissioner, the Times reports that the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS) was more effective than at any time in its history. Combining the Department of Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration under the DSS umbrella, Steve led a jointly managed and unified system that today provides services to prevent homelessness, arranges adequate shelter for all of those in need, and has provided more permanent housing to address homelessness than any other City program. With this new and comprehensive approach, thousands have been spared homelessness and avoided losing their housing, and the average number of people in shelters has declined for three years in a row, after rising for decades.
The article also highlights how New York’s homelessness services and shelter systems were built by litigation, rather than legislation—crucial litigations hard-fought and won by Steve throughout his long career improving the lives of low income New Yorkers. For example, New York is the only city in the United States with a universal “right to shelter,” a pivotal, wide-ranging legal victory Steve won as a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society. With Steve as commissioner, New York became the first city in the country to guarantee that every tenant in housing court must have access to a lawyer. Steve is also responsible for leading many other high-impact reforms, including expanded legal assistance for immigrants, Cash and Rental Assistance, Food Assistance, Medicaid and other programs that address income inequality and prevent and ameliorate the trauma of homelessness.