Yes Renee, there might be protection for this woman.
As a public entity HADCO is covered by the American with Disabilities Act as well as 504 of the Rehab Act. These require that they provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities. This includes modifying or changing policies and procedures if needed.
This would include providing more time to comply with program requirements, as well as helping the resident or, in this case, Section 8 recipient get the information needed to renew a certificate. However HADCO or any public agency must know that a disability is creating a barrier to program compliance.
So did the woman, her son or someone else explain that she did not comply with getting recertification information to HADCO? Was this explained at the hearing? Good news even if she did not, it may not be too late.
There is a however here.
HADCO has federal requirements they must fulfill in order to get money to run the Section 8 program. This includes having to do annual recertification of income and other information to make sure that each participant is still eligible for assistance. So HADCO has to be able to get the required information about this woman in some way. That may take having someone like you help her get it to them, or at least help HADCO access the required information directly. She will need to provide the “required” information, even if late, in order to get continued assistance.
If written notices are ignored because of a disability, HADCO may have the obligation to accommodate this by providing another means of communication with her that insures the program gets the information they need in a timely manner. This could be setting up a system that has HADCO staff calling or making a home visit if there is no response from her after notices have been sent. It could be that notices are sent to a third-party such as you, as well as the woman, so someone can help her keep track of what needs to be done and can contact HADCO if she is unable to meeting deadlines on her own. Each of these should be considered “reasonable accommodations” for her disability; there may be others.
What to do:
Someone must immediately contact HADCO’s Interim Executive Director, (who is also the Section 8 Director) and explain that:
1) She did not comply with the notices and getting paper to them because of the two disabilities. Although acute pain may have been an issue, it is more likely the prevailing reason was the depression associated with it and the bi-polar disorder is what impaired her ability to take care of business.
2) Ask that the ED overturn the hearing officer’s decision and reinstate the Section 8 Certificate. The ED has the absolute power under the law to do this. Given who the ED is, I trust that she will do the right thing.
3) If she does not do the right thing, then contact HADCO Board of Commissioners, starting with the chair. There are five of them and the name and contact info for 4 of them can be found on this blog. If you can’t find it, write email@example.com and we will send you a list. (One new member was appointed recently, but HADCO should have the name and contact info, which they need to provide you). The entire HADCO Board of Commissioners has the legal authority to overrule the Hearing Officers decision as well.
If these things do not work:
If contacting the above does not change things, there are other options. You can contact the following people or entities. I have listed them in the order that I would go if I were you.
1) Federal Elected Representatives: U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley & Ron Wyden, and our U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio. Here is the contact info for Sen. Merkley’s office; you can find the other two by doing a quick web search:
Portland Office of Senator Merkley
121 SW Salmon Street, Suite 1400
Portland, OR, 97204
Phone: (503) 326-3386
We have found Senator Merkley’s office most helpful regarding HADCO. Senator Merkley sits on the Senate Committee that oversees HUD (They give the money to & oversee public housing authorities) I suggest you start there and ask to speak with Joel Corcoran (?) in constituent services. Joel is very well informed about our local housing authority and should be able to help you or connect you with someone who can. Merkley’s office has assisted other HADCO residents with individual matters.
2) Oregon Fair Housing Council to file a disability discrimination complaint. Although you can contact both the state Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI) that deals with state housing discrimination complaints or HUD (the federal department of Housing & Urban Development), Fair Housing will help with referrals to the right agency and can also help advocate for her.
The Fair Housing Council Hotline
1-800-424-3247, or information@FHCO.org
The Fair Housing Council has helped other disabled HADCO residents.
3) Disability Rights Oregon is a non-profit law firm that specializes in disability rights law. They deal with housing & other issues.
620 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 500
Portland, OR 97204-1420
Voice- 503-243-2081, Toll Free-1-800-452-1694
TTY-503-323-9161, Toll Free TTY-1-800-556-5351
Although we have had very little experience with them re housing discrimination, CEA has worked with their staff regarding rights of people with disabilities in the state vocational rehabilitation system. As one, if not the only, non-profit disability rights law office in Oregon, they have successfully perused the enforcement of accommodation & other rights that people with disabilities have.
4) HUD- the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development provides the money to operate both public housing & the Section 8 program. HADCO must comply with the federal law and rules; this includes providing reasonable accommodations for disabilities. The structure of HUD is that the Portland field office deals directly with HADCO, so you should start there. HUD Portland Field Office
400 SW 6th Avenue, Suite700
Portland, OR 97204-1632
Deborah Mann: (971) 222-2663, email Deborah.Mann@hud.gov
She is responsible for seeing to it the HADCO complies with HUD law & regulations. However if she is not helpful (& she may not be), you can contact her supervisor:
Joy McCray: (971) 222-2666, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Although we have not found HUD to be all that helpful in many of the issues discussed
on this blog, they should still be contacted regarding this issue because somewhere down the line someone will suggest that you do. They might actually think that HUD will do something quickly enough to solve the problem, but I would not count on it.
As a federal bureaucracy, HUD has more folks you can complain to, but it may be more productive to go the way of first contacting Senator Merkley, Fair Housing & Disability Rights Oregon. Part of the problem we have had in our community re HADCO is a result of failures of Portland, Seattle & even Washington DC HUD officials failing to take concerns seriously.
There are some other things that can be done and people who need to know about what is going on, but starting with the above is the best way to start.
If you or she needs help, contact Citizens Education & Advocacy (CEA) via email at email@example.com.