In unusually harsh language, the Massachusetts Appeals Court today ordered the Boston Housing Authority to restore the Section 8 housing voucher of a man who physically could not have attended hearings it held on his case because he was in jail at the time.
The court found the authority violated its own regulations for how to hold hearings and misled Melvin Furtick on whether he could appeal its rulings, telling him could not, when its own guidelines said he could.
The overarching mission of the BHA is to provide housing assistance to poor and low-income individuals. ... In its rush to recapture Furtick's section 8 voucher, the BHA seems to have lost sight of its mission here. The seasoned Housing Court judge pointed out the big picture to the BHA and suggested a reasonable settlement of this litigation (a hearing for Furtick). ... The BHA ignored the advice, opting to pursue this case to the bitter end, a confounding decision in light of the serious procedural unfairness apparent on this record.
When Furtick won a lower-court order for a new hearing to explain why he missed the other hearings - which he claimed he was never even notified of - the BHA appealed, arguing the issue was between the man and the landlord who kicked him out, not the BHA.
Nonsense, the judges said. Furtick, who is elderly, physically disabled and mentally ill, got evicted and forced into a homeless shelter because his Social Security payments alone were not enough to pay his rent. Of course the BHA had a role to play in what happened to him, the court said.