A federal judge ordered the District government yesterday to immediately stop printing and distributing a flier critical of a referendum that would reaffirm that homeless people have an absolute right to shelter.

The referendum will be on the general election ballot next week.

U.S. District Judge George H. Rivercomb ruled in favor of D.C. Common Cause immediately after he heard arguments. In 1985, Rivercomb ruled in a suit brought by Common Cause that the city could not use public money or city employees to campaign on referendums, initiatives and ballot measures.

The flier, printed in two colors, is titled "Helping Homeless People Through Difficult Times" and includes a list of reasons that voters should vote against Referendum 005.

A District employee gave one of the fliers last week to Carol Fennelly of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which runs the city's largest shelter for the homeless. Fennelly, a leader of the effort to win support for the referendum, brought the flier to Common Cause, said Peter Williams, executive director of Common Cause.

Fennelly was listed as one of the co-plantiffs in yesterday's case.

Ten thousand fliers were printed, according to testimony by city lawyer George Valentine. He contended the judge did not have to issue a temporary restraining order because the District had acknowledged the error and already recalled "99.99 percent" of the leaflets.