Society

Developmentally Disabled Newlyweds Denied Housing Until They Filed A Federal Lawsuit

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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After developmentally disabled newlyweds in New York filed a federal civil rights lawsuit because group homes refused to allow them to live together, an agency finally stepped forward to offer them a space in one of their facilities.

Long Islanders Paul Forziano, 30, and his wife Hava, 36, married in April. They lived in separate groups homes in Suffolk County, but once they were ready to begin a new life together, they discovered no one wanted to help them. Neither Independent Group Home Living or Maryhaven Center for Hope were willing to take them in as a couple.

"I don't think it would have happened without a lawsuit,” Paul’s mother, Roseann Forziano, told the Associated Press. "All of a sudden once you file a lawsuit there's a whole lot of cooperation. I don't want that to have to be the norm."

The New York Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities was also named in the lawsuit. The couple claimed the office has not done enough to meet their needs. The office declined to comment.

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"You don't know what's going to happen in the future," said attorney Martin Coleman. "People like Paul and Hava have to have the ability to move around if they want to. There's only a limited number of providers. We need to be sure they're not closed out of places."

Forziano is diagnosed with a mild to moderate range of intellectual functioning. His abilities to read and write are limited. Hava is also in the moderate range and has a significant language disability.

The two facilities house Paul and Hava refused CBS New York’s request for comment back in April.

“My feeling personally is they’re afraid of the unknown," said Coleman. "They don’t want the hassle.”

Coleman added that the two facilities could have accommodated the couple, “easily.”

The director of programming at East End Disability Associates, Gus Lagoumis, said their facility has no objections to married couples living together.

"Gone are the days where parents are told a kid has a disability, institutionalize them and forget they ever existed," Lagoumis said. "Now we have people growing up in the community and they want to do things just like everybody else does and getting married and possibly getting divorced is one of the things that goes on in a community."

The couple moved into their new apartment on Monday.

Sources: The Oregonian, CBS New York