The federal government is suing a western Pennsylvania homeless shelter for barring entry to a needy man and his dog.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging City Rescue Mission of New Castle (CRM) after an investigation found the shelter denied a reasonable accommodation request to allow the man to keep his dog in the shelter, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations in their rules, policies, practices, or services when needed to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling.
“For many people with disabilities, guide dogs and other assistance animals are necessities, not options,” stated John Trasviña, assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will enforce Fair Housing Act protections to ensure that housing providers grant reasonable accommodation requests.”
In its press release, the agency said a blind, homeless individual contacted the shelter seeking a bed. HUD’s charge alleges that a CRM employee told the man that he could not move into the shelter with his guide dog even after the man said that he could not be without his service animal.
When a caseworker from Lawrence County Community Action, an organization that assists low-income people, contacted the shelter and explained that the man needed the guide dog because of his disability, the CRM employee again refused, saying that the dog would have to go elsewhere.
Kevin Green, executive director of the City Rescue Mission, told the New Castle News in an email that his shelter is not government-funded and that therefore it does not have to comply with federal law.
The City Rescue Mission “is a Christian ministry, organized as a church, offering compassionate care to the hungry and homeless as a gift of charity,” he wrote. “We do have limitations for whom and how we serve people due to the age and limitations of our facilities. We only have limited space where we can make a reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities, where they can be supervised and safe.
“We do this out of love, as we are not a social service agency. We believe that due to the religious freedom set for us in the Constitution, we are not subject to the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.
The charges are before a U.S. Administrative Law judge. No word that I could find from the shelter.