New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Sunday requiring local officials throughout the state to force the homeless into shelters when temperatures dip below freezing, and vowed to defend the edict if challenged in court.
The order, which goes into effect on Tuesday, requires social service agencies and police to move homeless individuals into shelters, against their will if necessary, when the temperature is at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (O degrees Celsius).
"Our state, which has a beautiful tradition of social progress and community, should not leave anyone outside in freezing temperatures. That's called basic humanity," Cuomo said during an interview on New York City news channel NY1.
New York and other big US cities have long wrestled with the dilemma of dealing with homeless people who refuse to be taken to shelters, even in the most bitter cold. Many of them fear falling victim to crime in the shelters.
The order also requires shelters to extend hours of operation to ensure that homeless people can stay inside whenever there is "inclement winter weather which can cause hypothermia, serious injury and death."