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Assisted living facility accused of evicting HIV-positive man

By Jennifer Vanasco -

Monday, May 11, 2009

(Little Rock, Arkansas) A federal lawsuit has been filed against an assisted living facility for allegedly evicting a man when it discovered he was HIV-positive.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by Lambda Legal on behalf of 75–year–old Rev. Dr. Robert Franke, a retired university provost and Unitarian-Universalist minister, and his daughter, Sara Franke Bowling.

Lambda said that Franke, who relocated to Little Rock to be closer to his daughter, moved in to Fox Ridge of North Little Rock, an assisted living facility, after fulfilling all of its residency requirements — including submission of medical evaluation forms from a local physician.

The next day, however, after realizing Dr. Franke is HIV-positive, Fox Ridge officials abruptly ejected Franke from the facility, according to the lawsuit.

A Fox Ridge staffer allegedly told Bowling her father’s personal belongings could remain, but that the “body” had to be out by the end of the day.

“I was stunned that my dad was thrown out of his new home,” said Bowling in a statement.

“The people at Fox Ridge were supposed to make sure that he was comfortable and cared for, and instead they shunned and rejected him, making him feel like a complete outcast.”

Dr. Franke requires no special medical attention beyond daily medication and regular check–ups with a physician, and Fox Ridge is licensed by the state to provide Dr. Franke with the kind of care he and his daughter were seeking for him, Lambda said.

“Federal and state laws exist to protect people from just this sort of unjust treatment,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project staff attorney for Lambda Legal.

“Unfortunately, this is something we are seeing far too frequently, all across the country. Those tasked with caring for our elderly loved ones need to know that it is illegal to discriminate against someone with HIV based on outdated and misguided beliefs about its transmission.”

Franke and Bowling are seeking damages under the Fair Housing Act, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act and the Arkansas Fair Housing Act, as well as an injunction, under those laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act, preventing Fox Ridge from continuing to engage in this kind of conduct.

“This is about doing the right thing,” said Franke.  “I want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else — because no one should ever be made to feel the way I did.”

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