Intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities, or ICF's are residential homes where people who need some assistance can live in a community setting. Although the homes have staff and operate as businesses, they are the primary residences of the people they serve. These facilities usually operate out of residential homes in residential areas and are virtually indistinguishable from the residences around them.
However, when people in Hurricane, WV heard that a 4-bed ICF was going to open up in their neighborhood people got upset. In fact, the Putnam County Commission tried to file an injunction to stop the residence from operating.
At a County Commission meeting, along with disability advocates and representatives from the ICF, the ACLU came to speak. Below is the testimony given to the Putnam County Commission by ACLU WV Policy Director, Eli Baumwell:
"My name is Eli Baumwell, and I am the Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. The ACLU is a non-profit non-partisan organization whose mission is to protect the rights guaranteed under the US and West Virginia Constitution. This includes the rights of individuals with disabilities. Before coming to the ACLU, I spent 5 years as an attorney representing individuals with disabilities in Social Security cases. Suffice to say, I take discrimination based on disability seriously.
It should come as no surprise that I am here to speak on behalf of Starlight and their right to move forward with the ICF. It has already been explained to this body that under the Federal and State Fair Housing Acts, the Americans with Disabilities Act and various other federal and state laws, the County Commission has no authority to interfere with this. The ACLU takes matters like this very seriously and would consider all options if necessary.
But the simple truth is, this should not be a debate about legality. This is a matter of common decency, which I am sad to say is sorely lacking here. This matter is simple. You have decided incoming neighbors are 'undesirables'. In fact, on the mere basis that they may need some assistance in living, you have decided they are SO undesirable you have insisted they show up here to justify their right to exist in your community. It’s audacious! Imagine, if you had to show up and plead in front of your future neighbors for your right to move into a neighborhood.
This behavior would be reprehensible and juvenile if the 'undesirables' you wanted to keep out were people in recovery or reentering from the correctional system. But to take those unjust stigmas and put them on folks with disabilities is even lower.
Bringing people into the community, allowing them to live lives as freely and normally as they can is exactly what we SHOULD be doing. And I want to make it clear that the ACLU will stand firm for this principle of basic dignity."