A referendum can be held Nov. 6 on whether the city should continue to guarantee homeless people the right to overnight shelter, the D.C. election board decided yesterday.

The 100-word referendum, part of the general election ballot, will say in part that a "yes" vote is a vote to reject the 1990 D.C. Council act that restricts the right to overnight shelter. That right was established under the law known as Initiative 17.

The council's act, intended as a cost-saving measure, removes the right of homeless people to overnight shelter and establishes a program -- but not a right -- for shelter and support services for the homeless. It defines eligibility for receiving shelter, grounds for denying shelter and limits on the length of stays.

A "no" vote on the referendum is a vote to allow the 1990 act to become law.

Leona Agouridis, voter information manager for the board, said the board's decision to put the referendum on the ballot suspends the 30-day review by the Congress of the council's act. Such a review is required before any District act can become law.

Agouridis said the referendum, known as Number 005, will appear on the November ballot and all registered voters can vote on it regardless of party affiliation.

Carol Fennelly, a member of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which runs a large shelter and is the chief proponent of the referendum, said she was pleased about the announcement.

"We are kind of excited about this," she said. "We are already into phase two, our educational phase. We plan to be at the polling sites on September 11 {for the primary} and to be at the churches."

Fennelly said advocates for the homeless collected more than 43,000 signatures on petitions, many more than were needed to qualify for the referendum.

The council altered Initiative 17, approved by voters in 1984, because, members said, the cost of providing shelter had significantly escalated and had become a major drain on the city's resources.

Agouridis said supporters of the referendum needed signatures of 13,978 qualified voters to get on the ballot. She said the board's staff stopped counting when it reached that level and did not count all of the signatures submitted. She said referendum supporters met the requirement of having signatures of 5 percent of the registered voters in five of the eight wards.

Agouridis said the process included checking the signatures on the petitions against the signatures on the registration cards of 100 of the voters in each of the five wards.

She said staff members spent three hours a night for two weeks and one Saturday working on the petitions.