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Homeless lesbian
sues over shelter denial

Homeless lesbian
sues over shelter denial

A woman who sought housing at a Chicago homeless shelter but was turned away because she is a lesbian is filing a complaint over the matter. Michelle Wang, 27, came to the Chicago from Indianapolis last year with her partner, but their relationship ended, leaving her without a home, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which is handling her case.

On October 31, 2006, a coworker drove Wang to the city Department of Human Services. An employee was unable to find a shelter where she could stay the night and asked her to return the following day. That night Wang stayed in an unheated building and returned to the the department's offices the next morning. The employee called and confirmed that New Life Interim Housing, which is operated by a Christian group but receives some city funding, had beds available and put Wang on the phone with a New Life staffer.

When the staffer asked Wang why she was homeless, Wang disclosed that her girlfriend had asked her to leave their apartment when their relationship ended. The staffer put Wang on hold, returning to say that there were no beds available. The Human Services employee asked a colleague to phone the shelter and check on the availability of beds, and that employee found that New Life indeed had space available.

"I am disturbed that I was denied shelter, left to the cold and the danger because of something so trivial," Wang told the Chicago Tribune in an article published last week.

The Reverend Bud Ogle, cofounder of the ministry that runs New Life, attributed the incident to a misunderstanding about whether the beds were available, not to antigay discrimination, the Tribune reported. He added that he was relying on staffers' word about the matter.

The ACLU of Illinois is filing complaints against the shelter with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. It also may file suit in Cook County circuit court, the Tribune reported. City officials plan to initiate mandatory antidiscrimination training for shelters that receive city funds. (The Advocate)

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