BROOKLYN - Homeless advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall Friday to demand the city reconsider a policy that could leave families out in the cold.

Councilman Bill de Blasio, chair of the council's General Welfare Committee, joined the group. De Blasio and others argue the Department of Homeless Services policy, announced Wednesday, is not error-free.

Critics say DHS' own figures show that, in June, 23 percent of families it initially denied shelter were found eligible the second time they applied.

The department's new policy, which was scheduled to go into effect Friday, states families that show up after 5 p.m. will no longer obtain immediate shelter without being screened. Families that are found to have other places to stay will be turned away.

"If you want to see where this will end, go visit ? large cities ? and you will see there entire families sleeping in cars, riding subways all night and sleeping in abandoned buildings," said Mary Brosnahan, of the Coalition for the Homeless. "Those are the stakes here."

DHS contends opponents are distorting the facts. The agency says the change is meant to stop people from abusing the shelter system, taking away beds from others in the process.

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