Suit contests housing program eviction FWD

Tom Boland (
Sat, 15 Aug 1998 09:49:13 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  Detriot [Michigan] Free Press


     Associated Press  August 6, 1998

GRAND RAPIDS  -- A transitional housing program in Kent
County would have to hold a court hearing before evicting
tenants if a recently filed lawsuit is successful.

The Michigan Poverty Law Center is suing the City of Grand
Rapids on behalf of a woman it contends was kicked out of
Hope Community Transitional Housing after allegedly pulling
another woman's hair.

The Hope Community program houses homeless women with
children and gets them into education and counseling that will
help them get housing of their own.

The law center also asked the court to void an agreement that
allows the program to immediately remove residents and has
residents agree to renounce any rights as tenants, the Grand
Rapids Press reported last weekend.

"It's our feeling that even programs that are set up to help
people still need to respect their legal rights," said Michael
Nelson, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.

But a lawyer for the City of Grand Rapids said the program's
participants aren't tenants.

"The only reason that anyone resides at Hope is because they're
participating in that program," said Assistant City Attorney
Preston Hopson.

However, residents do pay varying rents, based on what they
can afford.

Three women are plaintiffs, including Natalie Thompson, who
was told she would be evicted because she violated a temporary
occupancy agreement in a hair-pulling incident. She denies the

Her eviction was upheld and Thompson, 21, sued. Her lawyers
say they intended the case to be a class-action suit.

Last week, Circuit Judge Dennis Kolenda issued a preliminary
injunction that kept Thompson and her two children in the
duplex pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The housing arrangement amounts to a landlord-tenant
relationship, Kolenda wrote, rejecting the city's contention that
federal laws pre-empt state laws.

"In sum, this state's law says defendant cannot do what it is
trying to do in this case," he wrote.


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