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COMMUNITY SERVICES GROUP v. WIND GAP MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY

April 1, 2004.

COMMUNITY SERVICES GROUP, Plaintiff
v.
WIND GAP MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARY A. McLAUGHLIN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Community Services Group, Inc. ("CSG") provides caretaker services to three handicapped women who live together in a home in Wind Gap Borough. Wind Gap Municipal Authority ("Authority") provides sewer services to that home. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Amendments Act ("FHAA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., by charging increased fees to and imposing additional administrative requirements on the home on the ground that the home is a "personal care home."

Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment. The Court held a hearing on February 13, 2004 and will grant the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and deny the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The Court holds that the regulation discriminates against persons who need "personal care." Because these persons by definition are handicapped, the regulation violates the FHAA. I. Undisputed Facts

  The following facts are undisputed, unless indicated otherwise.

  A. The Home at 250 East First Street

  In 1965, Cindy A.'s family built a single-story three-bedroom home at 250 East First Street, Wind Gap, Pennsylvania. The house is surrounded by other residential homes in a residential community in Wind Gap Borough. Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. and Supporting R. ("Pl.'s SJ") at 11, 38.

  Cindy A. lived there with her family until her mother moved to a nursing home in 1999. Pl.'s SJ at 38. In 1995, Cindy's family established the Abel Family Trust ("Trust") for the benefit of Cindy, who was born with Down's Syndrome and has mental retardation. The Trust was established to ensure her care as she and her mother grew older. Cindy and her three siblings are the beneficiaries of the Trust. Pl.'s SJ at 38-39; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s SJ") at Ex. G.

  When the Trust was established, Cindy's mother's health was failing and Cindy required assistance with her daily activities. Northampton County Agencies funded in-home services to Cindy and her mother. In 1997, the in-home services increased because of Cindy's mother's health. In November 1999, Cindy's mother moved to a nursing home. Cindy continued to live at the house with the assistance of a full-time caretaker, provided through the Northampton County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Program ("MH/MR") and family funds. Pl.'s SJ at 39.

  In 2000, Cindy's family and MH/MR explored the possibility of having other women with disabilities move into the home with Cindy to allow Cindy to live in the home. They ultimately determined that two other women, Cassie and Linda, would move in permanently with Cindy. The three women, who are adults in their forties and fifties, have mental retardation which substantially limits their ability to learn, work, communicate, and care for themselves. Due to their physical and cognitive disabilities, the women need assistance with their daily life activities in order to live in the community. The women receive services from one human services agency in order to save MH/MR's limited resources and to allow the three women to live in a home as the functional equivalent of a family. Pl.'s SJ at 11-12, 39-40, 53-54.

  B. CSG

  MH/MR does not provide direct care services to individuals with mental retardation. It contracts with human services agencies to provide these services pursuant to county, state, and federal requirements and protocols. Without these agencies, MH/MR would be unable to fulfill its legal obligations and provide the necessary services to its clients with mental retardation. MH/MR has contracted with CSG for the last 25 years. Pl.'s SJ at 10-11, 52-53.

  CSG is a for-profit corporation that provides both residential and non-residential services to persons with disabilities in Northampton County and other counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. CSG's mission is to promote the growth and enhance the potential of people with disabilities. Pl.'s SJ at 10-11, 52-53.

  MH/MR contracts with CSG to provide support and services to individuals with mental retardation in their daily activities to permit them to live in residential homes. MH/MR determined that CSG would provide caretaker services to the three residents at East First Street. Pl.'s SJ at 11, 52-53; Def.'s SJ at Ex. C.

  As part of coordinating and providing caretaker services to the three women at the house, CSG entered into a lease agreement with the Trust. CSG and MH/MR worked with Cindy, Cassie, and Linda and their families to complete the necessary paperwork needed to arrange for the provision of caretaker services. CSG and MH/MR are required by state and federal law to document the services and funding sources. The completion of the paperwork and the lease agreement was part of the process necessary to enable the three women to live together as a household at 250 East First Street with the necessary caretaker assistance. The lease agreement provided that CSG would pay the Trust $11,400 annually. Pl.'s SJ at 11, 54; Def.'s SJ at Ex. H.

  Cassie and Linda moved into the house on or about December 29, 2000 and have lived there since that time. Pl.'s SJ at 40.

  C. The Current Use of the Home

  Cindy, Cassie, and Linda live in the house at 250 East First Street together as a family unit. They have developed a strong sense of family and intend to continue living in the home together. Each has her own bedroom decorated with personal belongings, and they all share the common areas of the home. Pl.'s SJ at 11-12.

  On weekdays, the women typically wake up at 6:00 a.m. and get ready for the day. They eat breakfast together at around 7:00 a.m. in the kitchen. They leave for the day at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. to attend a day program and/or a vocational rehabilitation program. When the women return for the day in the afternoon, they engage in normal leisure activities and errands, e.g., nap, walk, shop, or talk with each other. They go food shopping, eat dinner, and help clean up together. After dinner, the women each do as they please, e.g., they might watch television, play games, go on walks, go to the mall, or talk. They bathe later in the evening, receiving assistance from a caretaker according to their needs. Pl.'s SJ at 12, 16-20, 464-67.

  On weekends, the women sometimes visit family or have family members and friends visit them at their home. There are no regulations or conditions regarding the number, frequency, or timing of visitors. Cindy, Cassie, and Linda celebrate holidays together at home throughout the year. At Christmas, for example, they decorate a tree and exchange presents. Id.

  Caretakers from CSG assist Cindy, Cassie, and Linda with their day-to-day activities, such as bathing, food preparation, and housecleaning, so that the women are able to live in a residential home. The caretakers use the mini-van parked in the garage to drive the women to appointments or to various leisure activities. Cindy, Cassie, and Linda do not require or receive clinical care, therapy, rehabilitation or other similar services at the home. Pl.'s SJ at 16-20, 466.

  The caretakers are not present in the home from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. when the residents are not home, unless a resident has remained home for some reason. One overnight caretaker stays in the house from approximately 11:00 p.m. until 9:00 a.m. The overnight caretaker does not sleep at the house. During other hours, there are generally two caretakers and sometimes one caretaker present. About once a month ...


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