BOISE – A federal jury has ordered the city of Boise to pay $1 million to an organization that helps homeless people because the city discriminated against women and children and retaliated against the organization when board members complained.
The verdict was handed down Wednesday evening in U.S. District Court in the lawsuit brought by Community House Inc.
“The city respectfully disagrees with the jury’s decision and will be reviewing all its options to reverse this verdict,” Boise city spokesman Adam Park said in a statement.
Community House and the city of Boise worked together in the 1990s to build and run a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, funded largely through federal grants and private donations. The city owned the building and administered some of the grant funds, and Community House operated the shelter and soup kitchen.
But over time the relationship began to unravel, and in 2003 the city began to look for a new organization to run the shelter.
When officials with Community House learned that the Boise Rescue Mission – which houses only men – was likely to take over, it filed a complaint under the Fair Housing Act contending that the move amounted to discrimination by the city because the women, children and family groups that lived at the shelter would be left with no place to go.
In 2005, the city of Boise officially entered into a lease-and-purchase agreement with the Boise Rescue Mission, passing an ordinance to make the building a shelter for men only.
That’s when Community House sued in federal court, contending that the city was discriminating against women and children and that it was violating provisions of both the Idaho and U.S. constitutions by becoming too entangled with a religious organization, the Boise Rescue Mission.
Community House also contended in the lawsuit that the city retaliated against the organization after it filed the Fair Housing Act complaint by forcing it to give up the shelter building or risk losing its grant money, which was administered through city coffers.
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