Neighborhood Association Faulted For Discrimination
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 13, 2004
JACKSON, TENNESSEE--Community living advocates hope that a recent settlement in Jackson sends a message to neighborhood associations across the country that it is illegal to exclude people with disabilities.
The case involved three women with developmental disabilities who now live in a home in a Jackson neighborhood. The women, all in their 40s, used to be housed at Arlington Developmental Center, but moved out as the institution down-sized. All three have family in and around Jackson.
The day before the women were to move into their new home in October 2002, the Bethany Area Neighborhood Association of Jackson gained a temporary restraining order after it argued that the home would violate the neighborhood association's covenant restrictions about single-family residences. The restraining order was soon dismissed, and the women moved in shortly afterward.
In April 2003, St. John's Community Services-Tennessee, which provides services for the women, sued the neighborhood association claiming it had violated the U.S. Fair Housing Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act. According to the Jackson Sun, St. John's alleged that the neighborhood association prevented the non-profit agency from aiding and encouraging the three women in exercising their right to fair and equal housing.
Last month, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the neighborhood association and five of its members to pay $20,000 and write a letter of apology.
"I hope it keeps other families from having to go through it," said Carol Sellars, whose sister, Robbie Duncan, lives in the house. "It was disheartening. It was just ignorance. None of the three ladies were going to be a danger."
Of her sister's new living arrangement, Sellars said: "You can tell by the way she acts, she's happy."
"Search for fair housing ends" (Jackson Sun)