MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - A service that supposedly helps the homeless and disabled forces these "vulnerable adults" to live in illegal "over-occupied, unstable housing," a lawsuit claims.
Bryant Langdon, Chanika Lyle, James Simmons and Randolph Williams sued Ministry of Criminal Justice Supportive Housing Services LLC, and its employees, Kolleen Boyd and Sidney Lasalle Bruce Jr., in Hennepin County Court.
J & M Homes LLC and Sou Enterprises LLC, the property owners at which MCJ Services rented rooms to the tenants, are also named defendants.
Langdon says he was living in a homeless shelter in December 2013 when he learned that Bruce Jr. had rooms for rent. He says Bruce Jr. promised him a furnished house with access to a shared kitchen and bathroom.
The complaint describes Langdon as 46 years old, with disabilities stemming from being shot in the head. He receives Supplemental Security Income and meets the economic guidelines required for federal benefits, according to the complaint.
Langdon says he paid Bruce Jr. $495 to move into one of four upper bedrooms at the 3611 Penn property owned by J & M Homes.
At the time Langdon agreed to rent from MCJ Services, Langdon says he believed that MCJ Services, or Bruce Jr. and Boyd, owned the property.
Shortly after he moved in, however, Langdon was allegedly required to move to the lower area of the property and share another tenant's room.
Langdon also claims the living room was rented as a bedroom to a blind tenant and her caregiver, and that tenants did not have access to a front porch because it was being rented as a bedroom.
Approximately one month after Langdon had moved into the property, MCJ Services told Langdon he had to move to another MCJ Services property, the complaint says.
MCJ Services allegedly moved him again to an illegally over-occupied house. "3422 Fremont was not licensed as a lodging establishment with the city of Minneapolis while it operated as a MCJ Services house," the complaint states.
Boyd allegedly gave Langdon a very small room that only had a mattress on the floor and no lock on the door.
After moving into the second property, Boyd told Langdon that MCJ Services ran "sober houses," and that "3422 Fremont was a sober house," according to the complaint.
In addition to claiming that he had seen Bruce drinking alcohol at 3611 Penn, Langdon says he was not previously told about the sober-housing program.
Boyd allegedly told Langdon to leave the property this past March. MCJ Services withheld Langdon's security deposit and he again became homeless, the complaint states.
The StarTribune described Boyd's service in an August 2014 as a "creative homeless solution run[ning] up against Minneapolis city code."
"Boyd does not dispute that there are too many people living in some of the homes," the article by StarTribune reporter Alejandra Matos states. "She called on the city to re-evaluate its policies so that she and others can help those facing homelessness."
The StarTribune said: "City code dictates that Boyd's houses can only have three unrelated people living in each. In one of her homes, she has seven people paying rent."
Lyle says she met Bruce Jr. in November 2013 after she responded to a flier from a homeless shelter. After Bruce learned that Lyle "could get Emergency Assistance and that she had income from SSI," he "told Ms. Lyle to show up with the money and gave her the address of 1021 Morgan," the complaint states.
Lyle says her rent at this six-bedroom house, which she shared with eight other occupants, was $495 per month. "There was not a room available for Ms. Lyle at 1021 Morgan when she moved in, so she slept on a couch near the dining room behind a makeshift curtain for the first week of her tenancy," the complaints states.
Lyle also says she did not have access to a portion of the living room because it served as a bedroom.
The owner of 1021 Morgan evicted against Boyd, Bruce Jr. and the occupants at 1021 Morgan on Jan. 8, 2014, according to the complaint.
J & M Homes owned the property at 612 Newton where Lyle moved next, according to the complaint. It was allegedly home to at least six other occupants at the time.
Lyle says there was not a washer or dryer at the property, and that the laundry room was being rented to a tenant.
In February 2014, a tenant died at 612 Newton, the complaint states.
"Defendant Boyd told Ms. Lyle by letter dated February 25, 2014, that she needed to vacate 612 Newton by March 28, 2014, and threatened to destroy any of Ms. Lyle's property remaining at 612 Newton after that date," the complaint states.
Lyle says, after she moved from 612 Newton, she could not use EGA funds to locate new housing because her funds had already been paid to J & M Homes for her housing at 612 Newton.
"Ms. Lyle did not have anywhere to live and again became homeless," the complaint states. "Ms. Lyle was homeless until August 15, 2014."
The tenants seek damages for financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, bad faith and violations of the Fair Housing Act. They are represented by Lindsey Hanson with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.
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