Lawsuit: Chicago homeless shelters lack accessibility

March 13, 2019 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago woman is suing the city, claiming that some of its homeless shelters are illegally unable to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.

The federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Laura Martin on Monday contends that Chicago has violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Martin became homeless in 2017 after a relative she was staying with moved into a nursing home, the lawsuit states. She had nowhere to live for a week while waiting for a subsidized apartment to become available.


Martin was turned away from multiple shelters because she has difficulty walking due to rheumatoid arthritis, the lawsuit contends. It took three nights for the shelter system to find her a place to stay.

The Chicago Coalition, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and law firm Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP have partnered with Martin in the lawsuit.

“Some of the most vulnerable people in our city are completely being denied access,” said Diane O’Connell, an attorney with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. ”(Martin) had to sleep in a hospital emergency room for multiple nights because there was no help for her.”

The lawsuit is seeking to have the shelter program and its partner organizations improve accessibility for those with disabilities, as well as compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees for Martin.

The suit also names Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Family & Support Services Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler as defendants. Butler’s department oversees the shelters’ funding.

The city’s law department declined to comment, citing pending litigation, said spokesman Bill McCaffrey.


Information from: Chicago Tribune,