A daytime drop-in center for homeless people has filed a lawsuit against the city of St. Paul, arguing that city-imposed limits on the number of visitors and hours of operation are illegal.
In a complaint filed Monday in Ramsey County District Court, Listening House called the city's restrictions "draconian" and "unreasonable" and asked a judge to find them invalid and award the center damages, attorney's fees and court costs.
Last month, Listening House indicated that it had no intention of obeying the city's limit of serving 20 guests per day, a restriction that went into effect Monday. The center has regularly served more than 100 people per day since last June. The city also required staff members to arrive two hours early and stay two hours late to ensure guests are not in the neighborhood after hours.
In a statement Tuesday, Listening House said the city approved its move to the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood. Listening House relied upon that approval when deciding to invest more than $250,000 to build its new home in the First Lutheran Church basement and sign a 10-year lease.
Neighbors almost immediately complained about problems they associated with Listening House, including intoxicated people showing up on their porches. That prompted a meeting between center officials and residents.
"Some neighbors were welcoming and supportive. Others were opposed to Listening House ever opening," Listening House leaders wrote. "Those who did not want Listening House in the neighborhood started a campaign against us immediately after we opened in June. On July 3, 2017, the City yielded to the complaints and granted a right to appeal the March 20 approval — even though no such right exists under the City's zoning ordinance."
In December, the City Council passed a resolution imposing new conditions on Listening House. That resolution became final in February when Mayor Melvin Carter declined to veto it, though he did not sign it.
A call to St. Paul City Attorney Lyndsey Olson was not returned Tuesday. City Council Member Jane Prince, who represents Dayton's Bluff, had previously urged Listening House and its neighbors to search for common ground. She declined to comment about the lawsuit Tuesday before she had seen it. "Needless to say, I'm disappointed. But I'm not surprised."