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Intermountain Fair Housing Council v. Boise Rescue Mission Ministries

May 12, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Edward J. Lodge U. S. District Judge


Intermountain Fair Housing Council, Janene Cowles, and Richard Chinn (collectively "Plaintiffs") brought this action against Boise Rescue Mission (the "Rescue Mission") claiming the Rescue Mission discriminated in housing in violation of the Fair Housing Act on the basis of religion and sex. The Court previously granted the Rescue Mission's motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 18) in a Memorandum Order filed on September 10, 2009. See Mem. Order (Docket No. 32). Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Alter or Amend a Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). (Docket No. 34). The Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs' Motion to Alter or Amend (Docket No. 34). The Court grants the motion only to the extent that the Court has amended its decision as reflected in this Amended Memorandum Order to address arguments raised by Plaintiffs. The Court otherwise denies the motion. The Court also reaffirms its previous order granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 18) and dismissing the case in its entirety.


The Rescue Mission is an Idaho nonprofit corporation funded through charitable donations from businesses, churches, and the general public. Roscoe Aff. 1, ¶¶ 1, 4 (Docket No. 18, Attachment 3); Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 1-2, ¶¶ 1, 4 (Docket No. 18, Attach. 1). The Rescue Mission operates two facilities in Boise: the River of Life Rescue Mission located on 13th Street ("River of Life Facility"), and the City Light Home for Women and Children located on Jefferson Street ("City Light Facility"). Roscoe Aff. 2, ¶ 6. The Rescue Mission also formerly operated a facility on Front Street in Boise that has now been closed.

A. The Homeless Shelter Component and Plaintiff Chinn

The Rescue Mission operates an "Emergency Services Program" that provides food, shelter, clothing, and other life necessities to anyone in need, along with programs that provide education, job-search, and work discipline training. Id. 3, ¶ 7. The Emergency Services Program includes a homeless shelter component that provides a place of overnight repose and safety for persons who otherwise would likely sleep on the streets, under bridges, in cars, or in other unsafe places. Id. 3, ¶ 10. The Rescue Mission also offers a variety of religious services to shelter guests, such as chapel services, pre-meal prayers, and morning devotions. Id. 7, ¶ 14.

The Rescue Mission does not charge fees to shelter guests as a condition of receiving services, and the operation of the shelter does not generate revenue. Id. 7, ¶¶ 18-19.

In general, the homeless shelter operates as follows:

a. First time guests are provided with personal items (such as clean sheets, pajamas, razors, etc.) and are assigned a bed in a sleeping area. A bed may be an actual bed, a mattress on the floor or space on the floor, depending on the number of guests that night, the capacity of the facility and the condition of the guest. Guest sleeping areas are in dormitory-style rooms shared with many guests, but may also be in the day room, dining area or hallways during periods of high demand. No guest has a private room.

b. Guests may [check into] the homeless shelter between 4:00 pm and 5:30 pm. Guests who arrive after 5:30 pm but before 8:00 pm may be denied shelter depending on the reason for the late arrival. Guests who arrive after 8:00 pm without prior authorization are generally denied shelter. First time guests who could not have [checked in] at the above times are generally not denied shelter. There is no advantage or right given to returning guests over new guests.

c. Upon arrival and [check-in], guests must go to the day room or outdoor waiting area and remain there until 6:00 pm.

d. At 6:00 pm, the Rescue Mission offers . . . services and programs to assist guests, including Christian chapel services, the Work Search Program, and counseling programs . . . .*fn1

e. At 7:00 pm, guests go [to] the dining area for evening food service.

f. After dinner, guests perform any evening chores that may be assigned to them. These evening chores typically include cleaning tasks.

g. After evening chores are completed, guests must shower and go to their assigned bed in the sleeping area. Guests may read or quietly socialize with other guests in the sleeping area until lights-out quiet time at 10:00 pm.

h. Guests are woken up at 6:15 am. Any guest who intends to return for the next night must make his or her bed and store his or her pajamas under their pillow.

i. Guests then go to the dining area for breakfast.

j. After breakfast, guests complete any morning chores that may be assigned and may store certain belongings in a separate storage area with restricted access. Personal belongings may not be left in sleeping areas during the day.

k. Guests must vacate the premises by 8:00 am.

l. Guests may return to the facility from Noon to 1:00 pm for lunch. Otherwise, guests may not be at the facility unless they have a specific case management appointment. Guests may not loiter at or near the facility.

m. Guests are generally allowed to stay in the shelter for up to seventeen consecutive nights, except that there is no firm limit on number of consecutive nights that a guest may stay in the shelter during the winter season months (generally November to March). This exception is due to the exceptional danger that cold weather presents to homeless individuals during the night.

a. Shelter guests generally may not receive telephone calls except as part of the Work Search Program. Anyone who calls for [a] guest (other than law enforcement) will not be told if the person is a guest of the facility. Depending on the nature of the call, the Rescue Mission staff may take a brief message for the guest (without disclosing to the caller whether or not the person is a guest) and post the message on a public bulletin board.

b. The Rescue Mission generally does not accept or process mail for guests, other than mail from law enforcement or social service agencies that provide services to the homeless.

c. Guests who participate in the Work Search Program are encouraged to get employment related mail or calls through the Work Search Program.

d. Guests may not hang pictures, decorate or personalize the bed area assigned to them. Absent a need for reassignment, returning guests are typically assigned the same bed area each night to facilitate staff oversight and avoid having to wash all guest bedding materials every night (bedsheets for returning guests are generally replaced weekly). The staff may relocate a bed assignment at any time without notice.

e. Guests may not come and go as they please. Once a guest checks into the facility, the guest may not leave the facility until morning. Shelter guests must return to the shelter every night if they wish to continue to stay in the shelter. A guest who fails to check into the shelter each night is generally prohibited from staying overnight at the shelter for 30 days. Non-shelter services, such as food, clothing and social services, are still available to the guest during the 30 day period. The purpose of this restriction is to help prevent the shelter from becoming an "occasional shelter" that helps enable a homeless lifestyle for the chronically homeless.

f. Guests may not have visitors of any kind other than law enforcement and case workers who work with the Rescue Mission.

g. Guests may not sleep in their own clothes. They must use the provided pajamas.

The above general operations of the shelter are subject to adjustments and accommodations depending on guest needs, the season, the facility, the facility capacity, and other factors.

Roscoe Aff. 3-6, ¶¶ 11-12 (emphasis in original) (footnote added); Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 3-6, ¶¶ 11-12 (emphasis in original) (footnote added).

Plaintiff Richard Chinn was periodically homeless during the years 2005 and 2006. Chinn Aff. 1, ¶ 1 (Docket No. 28, Attach. 3). He was a guest of the homeless shelter located at the River of Life Facility for the periods of May 2-7, 2005 (five nights); October 9-10, 2005 (one night); April 11-20, 2006 (nine nights); and May 11-17, 2006 (six nights).*fn2 Id. at ¶ 2; Roscoe Aff. 9-10, ¶ 31. During his stays at the shelter, he had no other place to stay and intended to remain in the shelter in excess of several months. Chin Aff. 2, ¶ 3. He always intended to return to the shelter whenever he left. Id.

Chinn asserts that he was told by shelter staff that he would be required to participate in Christian religious activities such as chapel services in order to reside and eat meals at the shelter.*fn3 Id. at ¶ 4. He observed that guests of the shelter who did not attend chapel services were either required to wait in the dining room or were not permitted to enter the shelter until chapel services were completed. Id. Guests who attended chapel services were able to obtain food before those individuals who did not attend chapel services because they were always first in the food line. Id. at ¶ 5. If the prepared food ran out, individuals who did not attend chapel services would be given substitute food of inferior quality. Id.

Chinn found the practices of the shelter to be coercive, unpleasant, embarrassing, and offensive to his religion. Id. 2, ¶ 6. He did, however, participate in the religious services out of fear that if he did not participate, he would be denied housing and other services. Id. Of the approximately fifty to seventy individuals staying at the shelter, Chinn observed fifteen to twenty guests who refused to participate in religious services. Id. 2-3, ¶ 6. Individuals who attended religious services or participated in the religious programs received better treatment than those individuals who did not. Id. 3, ¶ 8. Because of the treatment he received at the shelter, he stopped living at the shelter. Id. at ¶ 9.

B. Discipleship Program and Plaintiff Cowles

The Rescue Mission also provides a New Life Discipleship/Recovery Program ("Discipleship Program" or "Program"), which is an intensive, one-year Christian-based residential recovery program for individuals with drug or alcohol dependency. Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 7, ¶ 20; Roscoe Aff. 7-8, ¶ 20. The women's Discipleship Program is operated out of the City Light Facility. Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 7, ¶ 20; Roscoe Aff. 8, ¶ 20 and Exs. D-E.

The Discipleship Program is only open to individuals who are or desire to be of the same faith as the Rescue Mission. Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 7, ¶ 22; Roscoe Aff. 8, ¶ 22. Residents of the Discipleship Program are required to participate in a wide range of religious activities, including worship services, Bible study, prayer, religious singing, public Bible reading, and public prayer. Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 7, ¶ 23; Roscoe Aff. 8, ¶ 23. Residents also are required to participate in housekeeping duties, such as sorting clothes, laundry, cooking, housekeeping, and office work. Roscoe Aff. at Ex. E. The Rescue Mission does not charge fees to individuals participating in the Discipleship Program and the Discipleship Program does not generate revenue. Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 8, ¶¶ 26-27. However, residents who work full or part time generally are required to pay a $100 monthly room and board fee. Roscoe Aff. at Ex. E. This money is held for the resident and given back to the resident once he or she moves out of the facility with the goal being that this money will be used by the resident upon moving out as a down payment toward a place to live. Id.

In October 2005, Plaintiff Cowles was in jail on drug-related criminal convictions. Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 9, ¶ 33. Cowles contacted the Rescue Mission and requested that she be admitted into the Discipleship Program, stating that she was "focused on changing my life through God and spiritual growth," and that she is "desp[e]rately looking to fill this void in my life with spirituality and not drugs." Id. 9, ¶¶ 33-34; Roscoe Aff. 10, ¶¶ 33-34 and Ex. F. The judge presiding over Cowles' criminal case required Cowles to participate in City Light's residential substance abuse treatment program (the Discipleship Program) as a condition of being placed on probation. Cowles Aff. 1, ¶ 1 (Docket No. 28, Attach. 2).

In March 2006, while she was still in jail, Cowles was interviewed by Discipleship Program staff and specifically informed of the Program's intense faith-based curriculum and the various rules of the Program. Def. Stmt. Mat. Facts 9, ¶ 35. On March 7, 2006, Cowles was informed that she had been accepted into the Program. Id. at ¶ 36. Cowles chose to enter the Program and was transported from the jail to the City Light Facility on March 14, 2006. Id. at ¶ 37; Cowles Aff. 1, ...

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