Ronald McDonald House Prevents Parents With Criminal Records From Staying Near Their Sick Kids, Lawsuit Says

by Vins

Juan Mieles, the father of Anthony Mieles, a 17-year-old boy with cancer, filed a lawsuit against the Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley and Ronald McDonald House Charities, Inc (RMH) for refusing to provide housing for parents with a criminal record, Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg reported for The Appeal in January 2024. The suit, filed on Mieles’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Legal Action Center, argues that the RMH ban violates the federal Fair Housing Act and disproportionately impacts members of Black and Latinx communities which make up three-quarters of the formerly incarcerated in New York state.

RMH’s housing restriction caused a physical drain on Mieles and his family, who were forced to make long car trips for five weeks. In addition, the separation caused emotional stress and heartbreak as Anthony often had to undergo treatment without the presence of family members. Anthony’s cancer requires at least another six-week hospital visit in the near future, and, with no change in RMH’s restrictive housing policies in sight, the Mieles family is distraught.

As Weill-Greenberg reported, “Federal and state regulators have long sounded the alarm that blanket criminal record screening practices like Defendants’ policy of rigid exclusion and broad statements that deter people with a criminal history from applying for housing violate the law and raise substantial fair housing concerns.”

The Ronald McDonald House website states the charity “provides hope, help, and a home-away-from-home for families of children requiring critical care.” In late January 2022, Anthony needed to travel for treatment. The Mieles family was placed in overflow housing at a hotel and then asked to leave once the background check revealed Juan’s criminal record. Despite an appeal letter from Juan Mieles, supported by credible sponsors, the executive director chose to maintain the ban on the Mieles family from RHM housing.

The plight of the Mieles family has been ignored by corporate media and only recently has it come to light through smaller, independent news outlets, such as the Davis Vanguard.

Source: Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, “Ronald McDonald House Won’t Let Some Parents with Criminal Records Stay near Their Sick Kids, Lawsuit Says,” The Appeal, January 31, 2024.

Student Researchers: Maria Ferretti, Erin Melvin, and Gianna Merian (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)