October 28, 2010; Source: The Metro West Daily News | The town of Framingham, Mass. has finally settled a long simmering and highly contentious lawsuit with a local social service agency. The South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) filed the suit in 2007 when the town opposed its efforts to site Sage House, a recovery center for former addicts and their families and Larry’s Place, a home for disabled veterans there. The suit charged [PDF] that Framingham town leaders and a few residents were participating in a coordinated attempt to rid Framingham of its disabled population.
SMOC claimed that the town violated federal housing laws. The settlement, reached after at least one claim of financial intimidation by the town and one previous failed attempt at mediation, requires the town’s insurance company to pay $1 million to SMOC and to provide training in anti-discrimination laws to town officials. Kudos to SMOC for pursuing this in what must have been a very difficult local political environment.
The language of observers from the article exhibits the degree to which the issue has been divisive. “We’re sorry that it had to come down to this, this far in the process,” said the Rev. J. Anthony Lloyd of the Greater Framingham Community Church. He said “lots of people are broken” because of the divisive fight over how SMOC’s nonprofit social service programs fit into the community.
Jim Cuddy of SMOC obviously sees the suit as worth the friction, saying “We embrace the agreement in which both parties acknowledge the right of every person in our community to have a place to call home,” An editorial today suggests that residents of Framingham will be left with a bad taste in the mouths because of the $1 million (which, again, will be paid by an insurance company) but it is worth noting that SMOC had offered to settle the lawsuit earlier without a financial award and was turned down by the town [PDF].
I am glad to be able to write this Newswire the day after reporting that officials in Indiana may be suggesting to parents that they “dump” their disabled children in homeless shelters.—Ruth McCambridge