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The Franklin School, located at 13th and K Streets NW
Earlier this year, lawyers George Rickman and Jane Zara alleged in federal court that the Franklin Shelter closure was part of the systemic expulsion of homeless people from the city’s center.
The judge granted them a “stay,” thereby allowing them to temporarily postpone the case, and focus on another legal battle—-but now Zara and Rickman say they’re ready to re-engage.
The federal case accuses the DC government of violations of the Fair Housing Act, the DC Human Rights Act, and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA)—a serious (and cumbersome to explain) set of allegations.
But take, for example, the ADA: “They’re denying them services because of disability,” says Rickman. He says that homeless service providers are mostly located in Northwest. So people with diabetes, paralysis, schizophrenia and other mental health problems are forced to either leave downtown for a bed, or stick around near their medical facilities, “opting to stay downtown and sleep outside,” say Rickman.
Both advocates say they’re ready to go after the claim of systemic expulsion because “the discovery rules in federal court are much broader,” says Zara, making it easier to obtain more information. They’d like the judge to lift the stay during this upcoming status hearing.
“What we would like to get as discovery is: What was going on between the city and the BID downtown to try to get Franklin closed?”
Zara says in the wake of the Franklin closure, the city was supposed to ensure that the homeless booted from Franklin still had access to the services they needed.
“We never had any sense of where these guys were going,” she says.