United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Gettleman United States District Judge.
Laura Martin has rheumatoid arthritis. She walks with a cane
and cannot go up or down stairs. When she lost her home, she
called the City of Chicago's emergency homeless shelter
line. She was unable to access a shelter for three nights.
Two shelters allegedly denied her access because of her
mobility limitations: one refused to take people who needed
help moving their luggage; the other had a broken elevator.
She ended up spending one night in a hostel and two nights in
hospital waiting rooms. She eventually moved into an
apartment that she used a housing voucher to secure.
sued the City of Chicago for discriminating against people
with disabilities, which the Rehabilitation Act and the
Americans with Disabilities Act forbid. 29 U.S.C. § 794
et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. She
seeks declaratory, compensatory, and injunctive relief. The
City moves to dismiss, arguing that: (1) plaintiff lacks
Article III standing for injunctive relief because she fails
to allege an imminent injury; (2) plaintiff fails to state
claims under the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with
Disabilities Act because she fails to allege that the
City's homeless shelter system disparately impacts people
with disabilities; and (3) plaintiff cannot recover damages
because she fails to allege that the City discriminated
against her intentionally.
court agrees that plaintiff lacks standing for injunctive
relief: she now lives in an apartment and faces no imminent
threat of becoming homeless and facing discrimination again.
Plaintiff has, however, plausibly alleged a disparate impact
on people with disabilities. The City argues that the
analysis should exclude a shelter that receives no City
funding. But the question is whether that shelter-Pacific
Garden Mission-is part of the City's services, programs,
or activities. Plaintiff's allegations raise that
inference: the City refers and transports people to Pacific
Garden. Plaintiff has also plausibly alleged that the City
intentionally discriminates against people with disabilities.
Intentional discrimination is not discriminatory animus; it
is deliberate indifference. Plaintiff alleges that the
largest shelter in Chicago is inaccessible and that another
shelter-Cornerstone Community Outreach-has an elevator that
has never been fixed. Those allegations raise an inference of
deliberate indifference: the City knows that its shelters are
disproportionately likely to turn away people with
disabilities, and the City has nonetheless failed to fix that
the City challenges the legal sufficiency of the
complaint's allegations, the court takes those
allegations as true. Firestone Financial Corp. v.
Meyer, 796 F.3d 822, 826 (7th Cir. 2015); Silha v.
ACT, Inc., 807 F.3d 169, 173-74 (7th Cir. 2015).
City funds most of the shelters in Chicago that provide
emergency housing. To access a shelter bed, a homeless person
must call 3-1-1 or ask hospital or police station staff to
call 3-1-1 for them. The City funds a delegate agency to
coordinate shelter placement. That agency, Catholic
Charities, responds to shelter requests and transports people
Laura Martin tried to use the City's homeless shelter
system. She has rheumatoid arthritis, which limits her
mobility. She needs a cane or a walker to walk and cannot go
up or down stairs. She has a Housing Choice Voucher under
Section 8 of the Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1437(f). Her
Section 8 voucher lets her rent an apartment that she
otherwise could not afford.
2017, plaintiff found a landlord who would rent to her.
Before her new landlord and the Chicago Housing Authority
completed the paperwork, the family member with whom
plaintiff had been living moved into a nursing home.
Plaintiff had no place to stay.
1. On October 6, 2017, plaintiff went to Rush
University Medical Center. She told a social worker that she
had no place to stay. The social worker called 3-1-1. A
driver from Catholic Charities came. The driver told
plaintiff that the only available shelter, Pacific Garden
Mission, would not take her because she needed help to
transport herself and her luggage. Pacific Garden is the
largest homeless shelter in Chicago; it receives no City
funding. The driver told plaintiff to call back later because
more shelters would be open then.
at the hospital, plaintiff called an organization named
"Heartland Alliance." A Heartland Alliance employee
told plaintiff that he had confirmed a bed for her at
Cornerstone Community Outreach, a City-funded shelter.
Plaintiff told a social worker the good news. The social
worker called Catholic Charities and asked them to take
plaintiff to Cornerstone.
arrived at 11:00 p.m. As plaintiff got out of the van, a
woman who appeared to work for Cornerstone approached and
said, "She can't come in here." Plaintiff
believed that the Cornerstone employee was talking about
plaintiff's difficulty walking. Plaintiff said that the
Heartland Alliance employee had confirmed that Cornerstone
had an elevator. The Cornerstone employee expressed great
frustration. She said that this problem happened
frequently-the elevator had never worked since it had been
installed. The Cornerstone employee asked the Catholic
Charities drivers how plaintiff would be expected to walk
across the street to eat. Plaintiffs arthritis prevents her
from walking more than a block at a time.
asked the drivers to drop her off at a hostel. She stayed
there for a night. That was all she could afford-she was
saving for moving expenses and the security deposit for her
2. Plaintiff arrived at Rush Hospital the next
afternoon. She told the hospital staff that she was homeless.
A social worker called 3-1-1. A driver from Catholic
Charities came and said that the only available shelter was
Pacific Garden Mission. Plaintiff said that Pacific Garden
would not take her because of her disability. The driver
left. Plaintiff stayed in the emergency room and called a
Catholic Charities employee. That employee told plaintiff