Trinity lawsuit alleges discrimination

Trinity Sober Living LLC has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Village of Hinsdale is discriminating against residents of The Sober House at 111 N. Grant St.

“Under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the residents of Trinity Sober Living are protected as disabled recovering alcoholics and addicts,” Michael Owens, executive director, wrote in an email responding to questions from The Hinsdalean.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, seeks damages and injunctive relief to allow the company to continue to operate The Sober House.

The village does not comment on litigation, assistant village manager Bradley Bloom said.

The lawsuit says the house provides “a peer-driven sober living environment designed to increase self-responsibility and support for persons in recovery.” It does not provide a recovery program or services, and no counseling or therapy is offered to residents, according to the suit.

The house, which was purchased in June, is staffed by a house manager 24/7, Owens wrote. Counseling services are provided at the company’s office, located in a commercially zoned building at 19 N. Grant St.

Village President Tom Cauley told The Hinsdalean in September that the house, which is located in the R-4 residential district, violates the village’s zoning code. R-4 zoning stipulates no more than three unrelated people can live in one home.

The house, which is currently occupied by an unknown number of residents, has room for up to 10.

“Residents of the house live together as a family and make group decisions based on democratic processes,” the suit states. “The house is used as a single-family home with similar support and collaborative functions.”

The house also is the subject of a complaint the village filed in DuPage County Circuit Court Aug. 8 seeking to prevent its use as a sober living facility. That case is ongoing.

The federal suit seeks a declaratory judgment stating that a sober house is consistent with the site’s classification as a single-family dwelling and requiring the village to apply the same zoning, safety, building and land use codes that apply to all other single-family dwellings.

In his email, Owens referenced a comment Cauley made in the Sept. 12 article in The Hinsdalean, in which he denied discrimination and said even if 10 nuns lived in the home, it would violate the zoning code.

“Mr. Cauley clearly doesn’t understand that nuns are not protected under the FHA and ADA,” Owens wrote. “However, people that are recovering from substance abuse and alcoholism are protected under these laws as disabled.”

If the case goes to trial, it could take 12 to 24 months to resolve, Owens estimated.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean