Lawsuit again Chicago halfway houses may clarify rules on how they can operate

A new lawsuit from Chicago residents against several halfway houses on the north side may help clarify how such facilities can locate in residential neighborhoods:

Both lawsuits highlight tensions often exposed in neighborhoods when treatment and recovery facilities seek to move in. Doing so can be difficult, treatment experts say, when established neighborhoods often don’t want them there.

But the case could also break new ground in Illinois, the plaintiffs’ attorneys say, raising legal questions about how the federal Fair Housing Act protects substance abusers in a group home, whether such residents qualify as disabled and if the law affects the city’s regulatory authority…

“They’re not saying, ‘Judge, evict these people,'” attorney Michael Franz said of the neighbors’ complaints. “They’re saying, ‘Judge, please make them follow the procedures that any other business would have to follow in the city of Chicago on zoning variances.'”…

“Studies have shown that when you put a group of recovering addicts and alcoholics in good, single-family homes in good, single-family neighborhoods, the recovery process is enhanced and the residents receive a benefit,” Polin said. “Part of the reason is they’re not living in drug-infested neighborhoods, they’re living in good neighborhoods.”

Sounds like an interesting set of cases: homes for the disabled versus the ability of a community to set zoning laws to limit what can be located within a residential area. The typical homeowner would not want to live next door to such a home and yet it can be difficult for organizations to find suitable and welcoming locations. Halfway houses for substance abusers aren’t the only ones who draw objections: homes for ex-convicts, churches, and businesses can similarly draw the ire of residents who don’t want the character of the neighborhood nor their financial investments possibly disturbed. But, should all such facilities be located in areas beyond residential zoning?

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