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US DOJ and Fort Worth, TX settle disability discrimination lawsuit

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced on Friday that the city of Forth Worth, Texas has agreed to settle a lawsuit [DOJ press release] alleging that it discriminated against persons with disabilities by refusing to allow a group home for individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction to operate in a single family residential zone in the city. The lawsuit was filed in April 2015 alleging that the city violated the Fair Housing Act [text] when it issued multiple citations and fines against a four bedroom group home called Ebby's Place. Ebby's Place, owned and operated by Ben Patterson, was designed to encourage residents who have successfully completed a 30-day drug or alcohol treatment program to live together to reinforce their mutual commitment to recovery. Ebby's Place requested a zoning variance that would allow it to operate, which the city council unanimously denied. After conducting an investigation, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) [official website] referred the matter to the DOJ. Under the terms of the agreement, Fort Worth has agreed to allow Ebby's Place to operate with up a maximum of seven residents and will rescind all the previous citations. Forth Worth has also agreed to honor the $135,000 of monetary damages and $10,000 federal civil penalty imposed on the city. Additionally, Fort Worth adopted an ordinance that establishes a process whereby qualifying individuals may seek reasonable accommodations that are considered necessary for equal opportunity use and enjoyment of their housing. Vanita Gupta, head of the US DOJ Civil Rights Division [official website] commended Forth Worth for "working with the Justice Department to reach an agreement that will safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities in our communities."

Access to homes, shelters, and other benefits and protection for the homeless and people with disabilities are a matter of concern in the US and internationally. UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, warned that homelessness is increasing around the world [JURIST report; press release]. In September, JURIST Guest Columnist Devin Cohen discussed problems surrounding Veterans suffering from PTSD [JURIST op-ed] and their right to receive military benefits. Last August the DOJ challenged [JURIST report] an Idaho city ordinance that criminalizes sleeping in public places by the homeless. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent [JURIST report] Moroccan officials a draft letter [text] that a proposed disability law before the Moroccan parliament [official website] conflicts with obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [text].

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