United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE.
case arises out of Plaintiff's termination from a housing
voucher program. Pro se Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit
after the Court granted his motion to proceed in forma
pauperis (Doc. 1). After the Court denied Plaintiff's
motion to appoint counsel, Plaintiff filed a Notice of
Refiling (Doc. 23), which the Court construed as an amended
complaint (Doc. 25).
before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 32) and Plaintiff's response (Doc. 33).
For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.
is a homeless, African-American man who suffers from mental
and physical disabilities. Defendant Liz Hagar-Mace is the
housing director at the Missouri Department of Mental Health
(“DMH”), and Amy Copeland
(“Copeland”) is an affordable housing consultant
at the DMH, administering the Shelter Plus Care
September 2014, the DMH approved Plaintiff to be a
participant in its SPC program. SPC is a tenant-based rental
housing assistance voucher program operated for the benefit
of homeless persons who are disabled by serious mental
illness, substance abuse issues, or other disabilities. To be
eligible for the SPC program, applicants must have a
recognized disability, have very low income, and meet the HUD
definition of homeless. As such, all SPC participants are
disabled. Additionally, Defendants state 70-75% of SPC
program participants are African-American. SPC offers two
types of vouchers, one-time and month-to-month.
order to receive an SPC housing voucher, a recipient must be
referred to DMH by an independent agency. SPC program
guidelines require the independent agency to assign a case
manager to the SPC participant who monitors the
participant's compliance with the program. Participants
are responsible for finding their own rental housing, but
then the SPC program pays a portion of the participant's
rent, between 70 and 100%. As part of the SPC terms,
participants agree to abide by the terms of their lease and
other household obligations.
case, Tri-County Mental Health Services referred Plaintiff to
the SPC program. On September 23, 2014, he was granted an
initial one-time housing voucher for thirty-days. Plaintiff
signed documents describing the SPC program's rules and
obligations, and his rights under the program. Plaintiff
subsequently located housing, and on October 24, 2014, signed
a one-year lease.
Plaintiff's lease, management for the rental complex
where Plaintiff was living complained to DMH about Plaintiff,
claiming he violated the terms of his lease and his SPC
household obligations, including cutting Google Fiber wires,
not letting service people access the apartment, and
threatening to change the locks on the apartment. During the
lease, Plaintiff complained about the conditions of his
apartment, including finding bugs in the apartment and his
belief that the water was poisoned. Management for the
apartment complex decided not to renew Plaintiff's lease,
however it permitted him to remain in the same apartment on a
August 21, 2015, DMH sent Plaintiff a letter notifying him
that he was out of compliance with the requirements of the
SPC program, that his SPC benefits were in jeopardy of being
terminated, and informing him of a hearing set to discuss his
SPC housing benefits.
voucher hearing was held on September 3, 2015. Plaintiff
appeared at the hearing with his case manager from Tri-County
Mental Health Services. Copeland was also present at the
hearing and discussed the reasons Plaintiff was being
terminated from the SPC program. Plaintiff responded that he
believed he was being discriminated against and denied his
civil rights. Plaintiff also states Copeland “made a
racial reply” to him. (Doc. 23 at 4).
October 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint
with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights
(“MCHR”) against DMH. In this complaint he
alleged DMH terminated him from the SPC program because of
his race and disability. While Plaintiff's housing
voucher was supposed to terminate in October 2015, DMH
continued to provide SPC housing assistance while MCHR
investigated Plaintiff's complaint.
January 6, 2016, SPC granted Plaintiff a one-time housing
voucher to assist Plaintiff with moving to a new apartment.
This voucher was valid for thirty-days and expired on
February 5, 2016. One-time vouchers are granted only for
extenuating circumstances such as hospitalization. Plaintiff
did not use his one-time voucher and it expired. On February
5, 2016, Plaintiff's case manager requested an extension
the housing voucher but DMH declined because it did not find
an extenuating circumstance.
February 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second discrimination
complaint with MCHR against DMH stemming from the denial of
the extension of his one-time voucher. Plaintiff again
alleged DMH discriminated against him based on his race and
disability. He also alleged the denial was in retaliation for
his first complaint with MCHR. MCHR completed its
investigation determining it “was unable to conclude