An ongoing civil lawsuit asks the question “Is it legal to ban group homes for the disabled” in Lafayette, Indiana. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana (ACLU) has taken the lawsuit and is representing the Fair Housing Center as well as Benjamin and Jennifer Hendrickson (the plaintiffs). The defendant for the lawsuit is the Brookfield Farms Homeowners Association, which has denied any allegations of discrimination in court documents.
The Hendrickson’s placed their home up for sale in January 2014, and then accepted an offer from INARF member Wabash Center to purchase the home. Wabash Center planned to use the property for a group home housing three adults, who are unrelated. It had to back out, however, after receiving a letter in April 2014 from an attorney representing the Brookfield Farms Homeowners Association insisting that the group home would violate covenants and quoted the declaration, “Each numbered lot in the development shall be a residential lot and shall be used exclusively for single family residential purposes. No structure shall be erected, placed or permitted to remain upon any lot except a single-family dwelling unit.” While the Homeowner’s Association did not take legal action to block the sale, it did not prevent individual homeowners from pursuing legal action. During April, Jennifer Hendrickson noted that a board member visited the home and “expressed a concern that if they opened the neighborhood to this type of group home, they would have to open it to other types of group homes, such as halfway houses.”
In December 2014, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Philip Simon ruled that the Fair Housing Center had legal standing in the dispute. Gavin Rose, the ACLU of Indiana attorney who represents the plaintiffs, noted that discrimination is not always overt and usually can show itself in accessibility barriers. “The vast majority of disability-based discrimination is not ‘I don’t like disabled people. Therefore, they can’t come in’, it’s the erection of barriers that make it impossible for them to come in. Whether, it’s not having a physically accessible building or ... a single-family restriction.”
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