Following a closed-chambers conference with US District Judge William Smith today, the State has acknowledged that a new law which caps the occupancy of registered sex offenders at Harrington Hall homeless shelter in Cranston at 10 percent, will be on hold until the court reaches a final decision in the pending ACLU challenge to the law.
In a letter that was sent today to Crossroads Rhode Island, the organization which oversees the Harrington Hall shelter, and submitted to the court, Michael Tondra, Chief of the Rhode Island Office of Housing and Community Development, wrote that:
“during the pendency of the lawsuit that there will be no adverse consequences to Crossroads Rhode Island by the State regarding the operation of Harrington Hall should the nightly occupancy exceed that set forth in [the statute] while the State, Crossroads and other stakeholders continue the ongoing work toward reaching the goals set for sex offenders in the statute.”
As a result of the letter, it was agreed that the ACLU’s request for a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the law was no longer necessary. ACLU of RI volunteer attorney Lynette Labinger said: “Our goal in seeking a restraining order was to ensure that anyone needing shelter at Harrington Hall would not be turned away. We are quite pleased that this goal has been voluntarily achieved by agreement of all the parties while the case proceeds.” A briefing schedule is expected to be set in the near future.
The lawsuit, filed in December 2017 by ACLU volunteer attorneys Lynnette Labinger and John McDonald, is on behalf of a group of homeless registered sex offenders who would be turned away from the shelter and forced back onto the streets if the new law is enforced. The lawsuit argues that the law – which caps the number of registered sex offenders (RSOs) at 10 percent for homeless shelters on State property – is discriminatory and violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (guaranteeing equal protection of the laws), the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.
The largest men’s homeless shelter in Rhode Island, Harrington Hall is the facility RSOs often turn to when they have no other legal housing options. Existing federal law bars RSOs from living in federally-subsidized housing, and in the last few years, Rhode Island has enacted legislation which places even further limits on where they can reside. Although a still-pending 2015 lawsuit filed by the ACLU of RI has delayed the enforcement of one of those laws, RSOs remain very limited in where they can legally live.
The letter from the State can be found here:
More information on the lawsuit:
In the midst of frigid temperatures, ACLU sues over law that will kick some homeless out into the cold
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