Petal settles suit; Brandi's Hope House remains open

Petal settles suit; Brandi's Hope House remains open
Brandi's Hope Community house

PETAL, MS (WDAM) - The City of Petal and the Department of Justice have reached an agreement to resolve allegations of discrimination against multiple people with disabilities living in supported housing in a city neighborhood.

"We tried to uphold our zoning laws which the neighbors of this facility wanted us to do, the Department of Justice became involved, and through consultations with them it was determined that our R-1 zoning laws would not keep a facility like this from operating in that neighborhood," said Petal Mayor, Hal Marx.

The city tried to close a home operated by Brandi's Hope Community Services that opened in 2012.

In response, a lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging that the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it took actions to prevent three men with disabilities from residing together in a rented home on the same terms as non-disabled persons; under the city's zoning code, up to four unrelated persons may reside together in a home in a residential neighborhood.

According to Marx, any group home required special zoning permission. Brandi's Hope filed a separate lawsuit in 2014, which this settlement also cleared up.

Petal will pay $25,000 to Brandi's Hope and another $25,000 the U.S. government, and both parties will cover their legal expenses.

"We have since complied with what the Department of Justice has told us to do, we have changed our zoning laws and the facility remains open, it was actually never shut down and no one was put out of the home throughout the whole thing," said Marx.

"I just simply was doing what the people of this city wanted me to do, it was not about discriminating against anyone, I was pushing for what I thought our laws stated and what they stood for," said Marx.

Copyright 2015 WDAM. All rights reserved.