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The Mckinney Homeless Assistance Act: Should a Private Right of Action Be Implied?

16 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2007  

Deborah Zalesne

CUNY School of Law


Many federal programs in such areas as welfare, housing, and education have as their sole purpose the protection and assistance of the poor. Yet often times inaction by federal officials or misconduct by state administrators result in the wrongful denial to the poor of benefits specifically intended for them. In those situations, courts have often enforced the underlying public policy of the statutes through implied rights of action to private parties. Courts have recognized that allowing the accused administrators to determine congressional intent would frustrate underlying public policy as well as the legitimate expectations of the poor.

The opportunity to seek redress is critically important to the poor. Homeless people typically have no political or economic power to go before Congress and as a result can only turn to the courts. If that avenue is closed to them as well, homeless people will be left with no forum to redress their grievances. Such results have the harshest consequences on the poor, as they are fighting not only against economic harm, but also against irreparable harm such as inadequate living conditions, health care, education and family support.

The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was enacted to provide rights and assistance to homeless people. The Act does not contain an express private right of action, and it is yet uncertain whether Congress intended one to be implied. This Article proposes that courts settle the issue with a definitive ruling. Analogizing the McKinney Act to other statutes with similar impact on the poor, the Article concludes that despite the Supreme Court's recent reluctance to imply private rights of action, federal courts should permit private claims under the McKinney Act.

Keywords: McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, Homeless, Private Right of Action

JEL Classification: I31, I38, K41, K00

Suggested Citation

Zalesne, Deborah, The Mckinney Homeless Assistance Act: Should a Private Right of Action Be Implied?. Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy, Vol. 14, No. 33, 1993. Available at SSRN:

Deborah Zalesne (Contact Author)

CUNY School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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