Town: No violation on homeless shelter
After a review, town officials say Morristown did nothing wrong in denying the Patchworks Place committee’s proposal for a homeless shelter.
On April 22, Morristown received a warning from Vermont Legal Aid — in considering a homeless shelter, keep in mind the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act. ...
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. ...
In an interview with the News & Citizen, the attorney who sent the letter to Morristown — Marilyn Mahusky, who works with claims made to the Housing Discrimination Law Project — said that if nothing listed in the letter is allowed in the industrial zone, “denying the shelter may have been permissible. However, it still concerns me that some community members are opposed to a shelter based on who could be using it.”
During a public forum March 1, some residents made assumptions that people who are homeless or housed in shelters have issues with mental health or substance abuse, and so should not be welcomed in Morrisville. ...
“It sounded like the committee may have been pressured by the landlord to look for a different site, and that concerns me too,” Mahusky said.
Morristown zoning director Todd Thomas — who has been fighting with the state to gain control over dilapidated buildings — suggested that Mahusky was pressured by the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development to send the letter.
Mahusky denied that, saying the homeless shelter issues were brought to her attention by multiple people at the state community level who were concerned after reading things in the news and in public documents about the homeless shelter.
“No single person brought this issue to my attention,” she said. “And I basically sent the letter just to make sure that the town knows about its obligations to follow the fair housing act’s rules in siting the shelter. We were not pressured by the state, and I stand by my letter. I also forwarded my letter to some of the concerned departments.”