LYNNWOOD — The Housing Authority of Snohomish County evicted a Lynnwood woman in violation of federal law after she accused her husband of domestic violence, alleges a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Despite being notified Kenneth McIntire was violent with Shawna McIntire, the authority helped him remove her from their housing voucher, leaving her without a home, according to the complaint filed in December.
In cases involving domestic violence, federal policy dictates the victim should retain the voucher.
After the authority evicted Shawna McIntire in early 2022, it threw away her belongings.
Constance van Winkle, an attorney for the plaintiff with the Northwest Justice Project, said this “could be a systemic issue that unfairly victimizes women.”
A housing authority spokesperson declined to comment. In court filings, the authority acknowledged many of the woman’s allegations were true, but denied violating the law.
Kenneth McIntire couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
‘She is not included’
Starting in 2017, Shawna and Kenneth McIntire, along with their young daughter, rented an apartment at the housing authority’s complex in the Alderwood neighborhood.
Since Kenneth McIntire was in the military, they used a voucher specifically for veterans to help pay rent, the lawsuit states.
This gave Kenneth McIntire control over their housing. So he reportedly was the primary contact for the Housing Authority of Snohomish County, or HASCO.
While they lived there, Kenneth McIntire repeatedly abused Shawna McIntire, the complaint alleges.
In October 2018, Kenneth McIntire told the housing authority the family might be breaking up. In paperwork, he didn’t list Shawna McIntire as a member of the family even though she was still living in the apartment, according to the lawsuit. She wasn’t aware of this.
In response, HASCO issued a notice telling the husband he had 10 days to indicate a change of people living in the unit. After this, HASCO listed Kenneth McIntire and the daughter as the only residents, according to court papers. Shawna McIntire continued living there.
A few months later, Kenneth McIntire reportedly asked a HASCO employee how to remove his wife from their housing voucher. Three days later, an employee responded, showing him how to do it.
In May 2019, police arrested Kenneth McIntire for investigation of two misdemeanors related to domestic violence. A judge issued a no-contact order barring him from going to the home. But he told Shawna McIntire if she told anyone about the abuse, she’d be sorry, the lawsuit claims.
The charges were eventually dismissed as part of a diversion agreement with prosecutors, court records show.
A few days after the arrest, Shawna McIntire told HASCO about the no-contact order removing her husband from the apartment. The authority didn’t notify her of her rights under the federal Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, as required, according to the complaint.
Around the same time, Kenneth McIntire reportedly again asked HASCO to remove Shawna McIntire from the voucher.
An employee told him she’d already been removed, so “at this point, she is not included in your household,” according to the lawsuit.
Months later, a housing authority staffer told Kenneth McIntire he’d need to get his wife to sign a form to get her out of the apartment, since they were both on the lease, according to court documents.
“You can request to have the locks changed or you can get a no-contact order from the courts,” the staffer reportedly added.
In January 2020, HASCO delivered a 10-day vacate notice to Shawna McIntire. Again, the notice didn’t have any information about her VAWA rights, court papers say. In court filings, the housing authority wrote the notice was meant for a different resident.
At the direction of her husband, she signed the form to remove him from the rental agreement. Shawna McIntire thought this would mean she and her daughter would remain on the lease. Instead, the voucher was moved to another unit for the husband, according to the lawsuit.
The next month, the housing authority told her the subsidy for her had been terminated, so she owed all of the $1,300 rent. The voucher previously covered $922. The authority told her to pay the money or move, the complaint alleges.
Unemployed, Shawna McIntire reportedly implored HASCO to work with her. She was trying to get the money. She told the housing authority she’d been in contact with domestic violence services to help with the rent. She paid $670 and hoped she could get help for the rest.
‘I’m so worried’
In March 2020, amid the beginning of the pandemic, the governor imposed a moratorium on residential evictions.
Unable to evict her, HASCO sent Shawna McIntire half a dozen notices in the ensuing months claiming the unit was abandoned since she hadn’t paid rent while continuing to live there with her daughter, according to the lawsuit.
After the governor lifted the moratorium in 2021, the authority moved to evict the mother and daughter.
In response to the eviction filing, McIntire begged for help.
“I’ve never been evicted before and I’m so worried that if there is a record of this, we’ll never have a home again,” she wrote in court papers last year.
The locks were changed, so she couldn’t come back to get her daughter’s belongings or her dad’s urn. She could only leave with her daughter’s backpack filled with some clothes, according to court documents.
In January, the housing authority took Shawna McIntire’s belongings to storage, the complaint states. She asked staff how much it would cost to get the stuff back.
“Your balance due is $36,136.50,” an employee erroneously responded, according to court papers.
In reality, she reportedly only needed to pay less than $2,000 to retrieve her belongings.
About a month and a half after the eviction, HASCO threw away all of the belongings, the complaint claims.
In April 2022, she asked the authority for a grievance hearing, according to court papers. But HASCO denied it, concluding she “does not have a right to an informal hearing to dispute a voucher termination because the voucher was not terminated.”
Federal policy holds that when it comes to housing vouchers for veterans, “when a veteran’s family member is receiving protection as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and the veteran is the perpetrator of such violence, the victim must continue to be assisted.”
The victim should be given another voucher if available, the rule states. If not, the victim should keep the existing voucher.
“The issue for Shawna is that the housing authority has to figure out who should receive the voucher when there’s a family breakup,” said Scott Crain, another attorney for Shawna McIntire. “And that just didn’t happen here.”
The complaint calls on HASCO to reinstate McIntire’s voucher, change their policy on housing vouchers for veterans in the case of family breakups and pay financial damages.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.
If you or someone you know needs a safe place to talk because of domestic abuse, you can call Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County at 425-25-ABUSE (425-252-2873). The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Call takers are there to help, not to tell you what to do.
You can also reach out to the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse: 425-252-4800.
If you are worried about being heard on the phone, you can text 911.
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