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U.S. News

Arkansas: HIV-Fear Claim Fails as Shelter Is Cleared

September 1, 2009

After an all-day hearing on Friday, the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission voted 4-3 to reject a discrimination complaint filed against a local homeless shelter by an HIV-positive man and his wife. The couple alleged that Our House evicted the man after one day because he has the virus.

Our House Executive Director Georgia Mjarten and Justin Sanders, a case manager, testified that they evicted the man because they wrongly believed he needed specialized care. They said they have previously housed residents with HIV and currently have a resident with the virus. Both said had they known the man needed no special treatment, they would have let him stay. They denied a suggestion by commission staff, led by Executive Director Carol Johnson, that they evicted the man because they were afraid he would contaminate the shelter's eating utensils.

Commission staff had sought $43,000 in damages and $44,000 in penalties -- the maximum allowable for four counts of discrimination -- two each for the man and his wife. Assistant Attorney General Don Barnes said the shelter's staff had no reason to believe the man needed special care.

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Our House attorney Dan Herrington called the commission's response overly aggressive. He said there was no evidence for a finding regarding the man's wife, as she was never rejected for residency, and that one count involving the man was wrongly filed. Herrington said the man should have explained to staff members that he needed no special care and asked Mjarten to reconsider, but that instead he left the facility angry and asked for $50,000 to settle the matter. Herrington said Our House staff will receive additional training about complying with housing laws.

Back to other news for September 2009

Adapted from:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock)
08.29.2009; Seth Blomeley


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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