Fairbanks borough sued for discrimination

Posted: Wednesday, November 07, 2001

FAIRBANKS -- A nonprofit is suing the Fairbanks North Star Borough, citing discrimination against the disabled.

Presbyterian Hospitality House contends that the borough limits housing opportunities for those recovering from physical, mental, emotional or legal weaknesses by requiring permits for special housing.

The nonprofit has opened an emergency shelter in a Fairbanks neighborhood and wants to house up to five homeless teen-agers. The Borough Assembly, however, rejected the request for that many people. The nonprofit continues to house two teens, which does not require a license.

The borough has not yet answered Hospitality House's complaint.

Michael Walleri, the nonprofit's attorney, said "a real unfriendly legal environment" exists toward people who need group home services. "A minority of residents can keep a group home out of an area under the code."

People not in need of special services can live where they want, Walleri noted.

Hospitality House opened its shelter for homeless teens last year, and problems soon followed. Some neighbors said the employees didn't properly supervise the teen-age residents.

Workers said they had made attempts to communicate with neighbors and sponsored an open house, but no one attended. Meanwhile, the shelter is now for sale, Walleri said.

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