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City of San Jacinto sued by DOJ for barring group homes

The federal government is suing a Southern California city for using zoning laws and discriminatory enforcement measures to prevent the use of group homes for people with disabilities. According to the complaint, the city is using zoning codes to prohibit and restrict group homes from locating to the jurisdiction. The laws target housing for people with disabilities with aggressive enforcement measures.

Individuals with disabilities who are eligible for Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may need daily assistance and care. Group homes are a communal way of providing this kind of resource to disabled individuals and their families in Southern California and nationwide.

The Obama Administration filed a complaint earlier this month in the U.S. District Court accusing the city of San Jacinto, California of violating the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new zoning laws took effect in October 2008 and a month later, the city conducted a sweep of 19 residences to determine if they were group homes. Armed sheriff's deputies and fire officials interrogated the residents with disabilities, inquired about their conditions, treatment and the government benefits they received.

Since the interrogation, 4 of the homes were determined not to be group homes. Some of the residences have closed and others continue to be visited by city officials and cited for violations. Some of the homes were targeted residences determined to be group homes and housed as few as 3 people with disabilities.

"Under the law, people with disabilities, including mental disabilities have the same rights and opportunities to live in the community, free from discriminatory efforts to exclude them," according to the U.S. District Attorney for Central California. The Justice Department is asking the court to stop San Jacinto city officials from using the zoning laws in a discriminatory way and to award damages to those individuals who were impacted by the sweep.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Feds Accuse City Of Barring Group Homes," Shaun Heasley, Nov. 14, 2012

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