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Missouri Federal Court Enjoins Denial of Housing Assistance to Sex Offender

by Matt Clarke

On March 14, 2011, a federal court in Missouri temporarily enjoined the Housing Authority of St. Louis County (HASLC) from denying housing assistance to a seriously ill man who had been convicted of sex offenses and was required to register as a sex offender for life.

Alton M. Perkins-Bey, 55, was convicted of two counts of rape in 1975. After 14 years in prison, he was paroled. He has not been charged with any offenses since then.

In 2004, Perkins-Bey applied for Section 8 housing assistance with HASLC and was put on a waiting list. In November 2008, he filed a Criminal History and Activity Disclosure Statement, and HASLC conducted a full background check. After two meetings with HASLC officials, Perkins-Bey was approved for the Section 8 Voucher Program in January 2009. Section 8 paid his entire rent plus $74 per month toward his utilities.
During that time, Perkins-Bey had surgery to remove a cancerous bladder.

In August 2009, Perkins-Bey’s parole officer informed him that pursuant to the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, 42 U.S.C. § 16913, he was required to register for life. He then registered as a sex offender.

On October 8, 2010, HASLC sent Perkins-Bey a notice entitled “Proposed Termination of Rental Assistance,” informing him that his housing assistance would be discontinued because he was required to register for life as a sex offender. A hearing was held on October 28, 2010, and Perkins-Bey’s Section 8 assistance was terminated based on 24 CFR § 982.553, which requires discontinuation of assistance to any household that includes a person required to register as a sex offender for life. Perkins-Bey then filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking both preliminary and permanent injunctions against HASLC’s termination of his housing assistance.

The district court held that HASLC’s actions posed the threat of irreparable harm, and that Perkins-Bey was likely to prevail on the merits. The court noted that the public interest did not weigh in favor of rendering homeless a seriously ill individual who had successfully complied with the terms of his parole for 23 years.

The district court further held that the hearing officer had misinterpreted the applicable regulations, as 24 CFR § 982.553 “only compels the Authority to deny initial participation when any household member is subject to lifetime registration; it does not mandate the termination of previously approved assistance.” Consequently, the court enjoined HASLC from terminating Perkins-Bey’s housing assistance and ordered the agency to continue paying the assistance until a hearing was held on the request for a permanent injunction.

On May 9, 2011, the district court awarded $9,760 in fees and $350 in costs to Perkins-Bey’s attorney. See: Perkins-Bey v. Housing Authority of St. Louis County, U.S.D.C. (E.D. MO), Case No. 4:11-cv-00310-JCH.

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Related legal case

Perkins-Bey v. Housing Authority of St. Louis County