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Overflow Shelter Letter 10-24-11 (2)

Overflow Shelter Letter 10-24-11 (2)

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Published by hprplaw

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: hprplaw on Oct 25, 2011
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10/04/2014

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I.
HomelessPersons
.......--.RepresentationProject.Inc,
AMERICANCIVILLIBERTIESUNION
o'M~RYLAND.
SentviaElectronicandRegularMailOctober24,2011MayorStephanieRawlings-BlakeCityHall,Room250100N.HollidayStreetBaltimore,Maryland21202Re:UnlawfuldenialofoverflowshelterbedstowomeninBaltimoreCityDearMayorRawlings-Blake:WewriteonbehalfoftheHomelessPersonsRepresentationProject,theAmericanCivilLibertiesUnionofMaryland,andanumberofBaltimorewomen,toexpressourdeepconcernabouttheCityofBaltimore'scurrentpolicyandpracticeofprovidingemergencyshelteroverflowbedstomenonly-leavinghomelesswomentofendforthemselvesinthecoldnightstreets.ThispolicyunlawfullydiscriminatesagainstwomeninviolationoftheEqualProtectionClauseoftheFourteenthAmendmenttotheU.S.ConstitutionandtheEqualRightsAmendment(ERA)totheMarylandConstitution.Weaskyoutointerveneimmediatelytoremedythisunlawfulpractice,beforeityieldstragicresults.TheStopHomelessnessAndReducePovertyCoalition(SHARP),acoalitionofadvocacygroupsforpersonsexperiencinghomelessness,hasrepeatedlyraisedtheproblemscausedbytheCity'sdenialofoverflowbedstowomen,includingwithyouintheattachedletterdatedOctober4,2011.Yet,despitetheurgentneedourclientsface,theCityhastakennoactiontoremedythesituation.Asyouknow,theCitysignificantlyreducedthenumberofshelterbeds,from350to2S0,lwhenthe24-houremergencyshelterforsingleadultswasrelocatedfrom210GuilfordAvenuetotheHarryandJeanetteWeinbergHousingResourceCenteronFallsway("theCenter")inJuly2011.Inresponsetoconcernsaboutthisreductioninbedsandthehardshipsitwouldcreate,Cityofficialsrepeatedlystatedthatthetransitionfromtheoldsheltertothenewshelterwouldnottakeplaceuntilaplanforadditionaloverflowbedswasinplace.Butdisturbingly,andwithoutexplanation,theCitysetupaplanforoverflowbedsformenonly.Whenthe175bedsformenattheCenterarefull,anyadditionalmenseekingshelteraretransportedbybustothe
lOO-bed
overflowshelter.Whenthe75bedsforwomenattheCenterarefull,additionalwomen
IInadditiontothe350bedsat210Guilford,therewereanadditional150bedsformenandwomenavailableonCodeBluenightsinthewintermonths.
 
Homeless
Persons
RepresentationProject,Inc.
AMERICANCIVllllBERllESUNION
ofMARYlAND
seekingshelteraresimplyturnedawaytosleepinthestreets.Womenarenotpermittedattheoverflowshelter,nooverflowbedshavebeenprovidedbyHomelessServicesforwomenatanyotherlocation,andnoassistanceisbeingofferedbytheCitytothewomenturnedawayfromtheCenter.ItdefiesanypublicpolicyrationalefortheCitytoprovideoverflowsheltertomenandnotwomen.Whilenooneshouldbeforcedtosleeponthestreet,thefactremainsthatthestreetsarefrequentlymoredangerousforwomenthanmen.Homelesswomenonthestreetsareparticularlyvulnerabletovictimization,includingphysicalandsexualassault.'Ratesofbothsexualandphysicalassaultarefarhigherinthepopulationofhomelesswomenthaninthegeneralpopulationofwomen.'Further,homelesswomenattemptingtocopewiththeexperienceofvictimizationonthestreetsoftenturntobehaviors,likedrugoralcoholuse,thatputthematfurtherriskandcontributetolongerperiodsofhornelessness.'Thecurrentsituationcriesoutforintervention:NotonlyistheCityplacingvulnerablehomelesswomenatriskofgreatdangerbyexcludingthemfromtheoverflowshelter,
it
isactinginblatantdisregardofthestateandfederalconstitutions.Itiswell-establishedthatgender-basedclassificationsareinherentlysuspectundertheEqualProtectionClauseoftheUnitedStatesConstitution.Where,ashere,thegovernmentdenieswomenabenefitithasmadeavailabletomen,thegovernmentmustdemonstrate"anexceedinglypersuasivejustificationforthataction."
U.S.v.Virginia,
518U.S.515,531(1996)(strikingdownVirginiaMilitaryInstitutepolicyadmittingmenbutnotwomen).TheCitycannotmeetthedemandingburdenhere.Itsdecisiontodenywomenaccesstooverflowshelterbedsneither"servesimportantgovernmentobjectives,"norcanbesaidtoemploy"means...substantiallyrelatedtoachievementofthoseobjectives."
Id.
at533.TheMarylandERAimposesevenstricterstandardsagainstgenderclassification.TheMarylandCourtofAppealshasconsistentlyheldthattheMarylandERA"flatlyprohibitsgender-basedclassifications,eitherunderlegislativeenactments,governmentpolicies,orbyapplicationofcommonlawrules,intheallocationofbenefits,burdens,rightsandresponsibilitiesasbetweenmenandwomen."
BurningTreeCountryClubv.Bainum,
305Md.53,64-65(1985);
AccordGriffinv.Crane,
351Md.133(1998).TheERAgenerallyinvalidatesanygovernmentactionwhichgrantsabenefittoonesexandnottheother,
BurningTree
at70,andmakesnoexceptionforclassificationsbasedonadministrativeorfiscalconvenience.
SeeEhrlichv.Perez,
394Md.
2Goodman,L.,Fels,K.,
&
Glenn,C.,
NoSafePlace:Sexualassaultinthelivesofhomelesswomen,
VAWnet,aprojectoftheNationalResourceCenteronDomesticViolence(September2006).3Kushel,M.,Evans,J.,Perry,S.,Robertson,M.
&
Moss,A.,
NoDoortoLock:VictimizationAmongHomelessandMarginallyHousedPersons,
ArchIntemMed.2003;163:2492-2499.4Hudson,A.,Wright,K.,Bhattacharya,D.,
&
Sinha,K.,
CorrelatesofAdultAssaultsamongHomelessWomen,
JoumalofHealthCareforthePoorandUnderserved,2010;21(4):1250-1262.
21
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HomelessPersonsRepresentationProject,Inc.
AMERICANCIVILLIBERTIESUNION
Df
MARYLAND'
691(2006)(findinggovernmentobjectiveoffiscalintegrityinabenefitsprogramdoesnotsatisfystrictscrutinyreview).Tomakethistroublingsituationdramaticallyworse,womenwhohavesoughtlegalcounseltochallengetheCity'sdiscriminationrecentlyhavebeensubjectedtothreatsofblacklistingiftheydonotabandontheirlegalclaims.StaffmembersofJobs,Housing,andRecovery,Inc.OHR),thenon-profitundercontractwiththeCitytooperatetheCenter,havethreatened,intimidatedandcoercedhomelesswomenseekingshelter,includingourclients.WomenstayingattheCenterweretoldtheywilllosetheirbedsandwillbe"blacklistedforlife"iftheyspeakwith"thelawyers."Pleasebeadvisedthatwetakethiskindofintimidationandretaliationagainstourclientsveryseriously.Thisconductisutterlyunacceptableandillegal,andwestronglyurgetheCitytoensurethatitscontractorformallyapologizesandretractsitsthreats.Duetothegreatriskofharmourclientsfaceeachnight,theimpendingcoldweather,andtheblatantretaliationbyJHRstaff;wearewillingtoforegoimmediatelitigationonlyifasettlementcanbereachedbycloseofbusinessFriday,October28,2011.WeareavailableforsettlementdiscussionsonOctober26,27,and28.PleasecontactCarolynJohnsonat410-685-6589,ext.23.Sincerely,
Cro~~
ManagingAttorneyHomelessPersonsRepresentationProject1800NorthCharlesStreet,Suite206Baltimore,Maryland21201410-685-6589Deborah
A.
[eon,LegalDirectorSoniaKumar,StaffAttorneyAmericanCivilLibertiesUnionofMaryland3600ClipperMillRoad,Suite350Baltimore,Maryland21211410-889-8555

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