In 1991, the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless, along with several homeless families with children, filed this class action suit against Washington's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in the Superior Court of Washington for King County. Represented by public and private ...
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In 1991, the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless, along with several homeless families with children, filed this class action suit against Washington's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in the Superior Court of Washington for King County. Represented by public and private counsel, Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages, alleging violations of state and federal statutes, in addition to state and federal constitutional provisions. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that DSHS's failure to assist homeless families, including those who need housing assistance to prevent or shorten foster care placement, violated their mandatory duties under state law, the federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, and the liberty and privacy protections of the due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions.
On August 21, 1992, the Court (Judge Ann Schlinder) granted in part Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's federal statutory claims. On December 15, 1992, the Court certified a class of all present and future families with homeless children, and all families who needed or would need housing assistance to prevent or shorten their children's foster placement.
On February 16, 1994, the Court held that in dependency cases the Superior Court had the power to order the state agency to provide housing assistance when homelessness is the primary factor for foster placement. The Court also held that state law required the agency to implement a plan to adequately assist homeless families.
After a May 31, 1994 trial, the Court ruled that the agency's plan was inadequate to address the needs of homeless children. Both parties appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, challenging three separate orders by the trial Court.
On December 24, 1997, the Washington Supreme Court (Richard P. Guy, J.) affirmed the trial court's decision on all counts, finding that dependency courts have the authority to order DSHS to provide housing assistance to homeless families; that DSHS must "perform its duty according to professionally accepted procedures and standards"; that an adequate plan must include prevention assistance, emergency shelter assistance, transitional assistance to get children out of shelters and into stable housing, and a process for ongoing monitoring and evaluation; and that DSHS's planning process must include coordination within DSHS's divisions and with other state agencies. Washington's legislature responded to the court's ruling with legislation codifying the ruling and substantial increases in funding. In 2000, plaintiffs joined the defendants in seeking dismissal of the suit.Timothy Shoffner - 07/13/2012