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This blog is dedicated to distribute current information about the Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland or poverty or the state of homelessness. Entries are written by board or staff of the Coalition. The opinions contained in this blog reflect the views of the author of the post. This blog features information on shelters, affordable housing, profiles, statistics, trends, and upcoming events relating to homelessness. We welcome comments, and will remove offensive or inappropriate messages. All postings are signed by the author.

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Entries in fair housing (15)

Monday
May232016

New Fair Housing Guidelines

By Abby Bova

In light of the frequent discrimination against homeless people with a criminal background, specifically those of color, the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has established a new set of guidelines for those who are providing housing.  “The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin” (HUD).  This new movement for HUD will continue the fight for civil rights, begun in the 1960s, as they work for equal opportunity in housing for all Americans.  As much as one third of the U.S. population has some history with the criminal justice system, with the largest population of incarcerated individuals in the world. 

It is no surprise that a large portion of this prison population, and those who have been accused and arrested, is made up of black and Hispanic individuals, some of whom are serving unjust and unequal sentencing due to racial profiling (HUD).  Over nighty-five percent of this population will be released back to their communities at some point and will need to find some type of housing if they wish to be reintegrated into society.  “While having a criminal record is not a protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act, criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities violate the Act if, without justification, their burden falls more often on renters or other housing market participants of one race or national origin over another (i.e., discriminatory effects liability)”, according to the HUD guidance to housing providers release. 

“In the first step of the analysis, a plaintiff (or HUD in an administrative adjudication) must prove that the criminal history policy has a discriminatory effect, that is, that the policy results in a disparate impact on a group of persons because of their race or national origin.  This burden is satisfied by presenting evidence proving that the challenged practice actually or predictably results in a disparate impact”(HUD).  This step has been put into place in order to protect those who have been accused or arrested, but never convicted of a crime.  Additionally, this step protects those who have been convicted of non-violent crimes, which pose no threat to property and other residents.  This guidance requests that arrest records should not be relied upon alone and may be discriminatory along with a policy that fails to consider other factors such as the age at the time of the offense, how long ago it took place, the nature of the offense, and what the person has been doing in the meantime – is there evidence of rehabilitation, were there any prior or subsequent convictions, etc.  This step will be especially beneficial to young black and Latino men who are commonly falsely arrested due to racial profiling, as well as the rest of the Latino and African American communities who experience racial profiling (HUD).

Accusations and arrests due to racial profiling have become a major topic of discussion over the past several years, and HUD has finally had enough.  These false accusations and arrests are reported to landlords and frequently keep men and women of color out of housing.  HUD asks housing providers to speak more in depth with housing applicants with a criminal record to further investigate the incident.  The housing provider should find out when and why this crime was committed, as well as talk to the applicant about what they have been up to since the arrest and how they have overcome the past.  The HUD lead staff states that those with major charges such as arson, production of meth, and homicide can be denied without much investigation.  However, they ask that charges such as use and possession be further investigated.

“In the second step of the discriminatory effects analysis, the burden shifts to the housing provider to prove that the challenged policy or practice is justified- that is, that it is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest of the provider” (HUD).   The majority of housing providers claim that their policies are in place in order to protect their residents and their property.  Most courts will accept this as a legitimate reason for the rule.  Therefore, HUD has further implemented a process by which the housing provider must provide sufficient evidence as to how the rule in question protects the residents and their property.  “A housing provider with a policy or practice of excluding individuals because of one or more prior arrests (without conviction) cannot satisfy its burden of showing that such policy or practice is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest” (HUD).  Meaning a housing provider cannot claim that he or she will not accept a candidate simply because they were arrested, in the interest of protecting their property and other tenants, because the individual was never charged with a crime.  The majority of these arrests without conviction are a result of racial profiling against innocent citizens (HUD).

“The third step of the discriminatory effects analysis is applicable only if a housing provider successfully proves that its criminal history policy or practice is necessary to achieve its substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests.  In the third step, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff or HUD to prove that such interest could be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect” (HUD).  “A housing provider violates the Fair Housing Act when the provider’s policy or practice has an unjustified discriminatory effect, even when the provider had no intent to discriminate” (HUD).  For example, if a land lord says that they will only house people with a high school diploma, GED’s don’t count, this could be considered unintentional discrimination because the majority of the population who has a GED in lieu of a high school diploma are African American or Hispanic peoples who grew up in poverty.  With HUD’s new guidelines the accuser must show significant proof that the rule is discriminatory and then they may provide an alternative method that is less discriminatory, but still achieves the main goal the housing provider was attempting to reach through the rule in question.

The first step in creating true equality is granting everyone their basic rights to food, clothing and shelter.  HUD has taken a dramatic step forward towards racial equality in housing through these new guidelines.  As a result of HUD’s fight against racial profiling in housing, they will dramatically decrease the population of homeless black and Latino individuals, slowing the cycle of poverty.  By giving individuals a second chance and a means of escaping poverty the nation will be able to take great strides in eradicating homelessness.  Additionally, by providing housing HUD will decrease the nation’s prison population by removing individuals from desperate situations on the streets, in turn saving these individuals from becoming repeat offenders. 

These new guidelines cover everything from the private sector to HUD subsidized housing.  If found in a situation, which one feels as though they have been discriminated against in housing in North East Ohio one may to contact The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland  or Housing Research & Advocacy Center at 216-361-9240, and they will guide the client through filling a complaint.  This is a big step forward for housing in America as we continue the fight against discrimination. 

Information found in HUD’s Document : Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate- Related Transactions.

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry

Tuesday
Nov032015

HUD Released New Guidance on Housing the Re-Entry Folks

Breaking news from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty…

As part of President Obama’s announcements today on re-entry programs, HUD has sent guidance to Public Housing Authorities and owners of other HUD-assisted housing related to arrests and convictions.  This is a huge step in trying to ease people back into the communities after a period of time incarcerated.  There was also supporting sentencing reform and an effort to ban the box on federal job applications.

Here is the guidance, fresh off the presses: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=PIH2015-19.pdf

In summary, it says:

  1. One-strike is not HUD policy
  2. Arrests are not sufficient evidence of criminal activity to support an adverse housing decision.
  3. Applicants and residents have due process rights if an adverse decision is being made based on criminal records.
  4. Apply any restrictions fairly and in accordance with civil rights laws.
  5. A list of best practices were also sent.

Many of us have advocated for this type of guidance for a long time and it is exciting to see it finally happen! The Law Center and the Fair Housing community will continue to push for more and broader guidance in the near future, particularly in the wake of the ICP Supreme Court case on disparate impact and the Fair Housing Act- which applies to all housing, not just HUD-assisted housing.

In the broader announcement, they are also announcing additional funding and programs to prevent/end the link between incarceration and unemployment and homelessness. We will have more details of this announcement in the future.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.

 

Friday
Sep042015

Fair Housing in the Shelters?

County Office of Homeless Advisory is going to Decide this Week if Fair Housing Rules should be Displayed at the Shelters in Cleveland

It only came to our attention that residents of the shelter had rights under the historic civil rights era Fair Housing Law in 2012 with the HUD release of the HUD LGBT rule.  This marked the first time that HUD was clear that shelters had to respect the rights of transgender homeless people who were in need of a place to live.  We have been assured by County staff that the shelters are fully in compliance with the rule, but I am not sure.  NEOCH has asked to have the rules that the shelter are following with regard to LGBT individuals and displayed so that both homeless individuals and staff can follow?  If a homeless individual has LGBT rights under the Fair Housing rules, do they have other fair housing rights?

My questions are:

  1. Will a veteran or domestic violence victim with a doctor ordered comfort animal for their PTSD be accommodated in our shelters? 
  2. Will a lesbian couple with a child be served in our family shelters despite the religious objections of a couple of our social service providers? 
  3. Will a gay couple be able to live together in our shelters with private rooms?
  4. Is there a gender disparity within our shelters since there are more services available at the Big Men's Shelter when compared to Community Women's Shelter for the disabled individuals?
  5. Are we violating the Violence Against Women Act protections if there are repeated complaints of male sexual harassment at the women’s shelter that are not investigated and acted upon? 
  6. Are we providing a reasonable accommodation to those with a documented physical disability if the only bed available is on the top of a bunk and so they have to sleep on the floor?  These would be clear if we all agreed to the rules and they were displayed. 

There are so many circumstances that are encountered by our local shelters and we don't seem to have a protocol for how we deal with these issues.  We have a Coordinated Intake/Central Intake point that makes the referral to shelter, but we do not seem to have a County wide policy.  We have heard that it is too complicated to display because there are many interpretations.  It would make it easier for all of us if the County just oversaw a consistent fair housing rule that we would all follow.

Without the rules outlined it is up to each homeless person to have to go to court or go to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission or the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to assert their rights.  Can or will the City’s Office of Fair Housing accept a claim on behalf of a homeless person?  This seems like a chaotic approach to establishing policy locally.  We need rules for everyone to follow.

We have heard from some that only the LGBT fair housing rule is in place for shelters all the other fair housing rules are not applicable.  Could we get some clarity on this with HUD then post those rules?  Even if this is the case, I am sure that LGBT individuals who become homeless would appreciate knowing that they have rights? 

CMHA has done a really nice job in implementing all the fair housing rules including the LGBT rules over the last three years, why can’t the shelters get together to come up with rules that we can all live with?  As it is right now, each shelter has to decide at what point they are willing to go to avoid lawsuit.  It would be nice to get the County to weigh in with some interpretations based on the real inventory of shelter beds locally. 

The Fair Housing Law has opened up housing to minority populations and families like no other law.  We believe that the fair housing laws can have a similar impact on the shelters.  It could be used to assure that homeless families do not have to split up or disabled individuals are able to recieve doctor ordered bedrest.  We believe that this will help people move more quickly to more appropriate locations.  It is not going to look good in the broader community if publicly funded shelters are determined to be violating the rights of families or disabled individuals.  We are urging the County to avoid the headache and put the rules in place for all to follow.

Ignorance of the law is no defense in court, and if LGBT Homeless have fair housing rights why don't disabled and women have similar rights?   We should not force each individual to assert their rights in the shelter and have each shelter have to defend against these “unclear” rules.

Brian Davis

NEOCH

Monday
Jun012015

Fair Housing Laws Under Attack in Ohio

 

 

Good morning advocates -- I hope you’re ready to help us fight a bill that would roll back civil rights in Ohio by 50 years.

This is not a joke. The Ohio House is considering a measure that would make housing discrimination legal. Hard to believe, but HB 149 (SB 134 in the Senate) would make it legal for certain small landlords and homeowners to discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, family status, military status, etc. when they rent or sell their properties. These bills would also dramatically reduce or remove important sanctions, which currently provide disincentives to discriminate.

You can learn more about these anti-fair housing bills by reading editorials from the Akron Beacon Journal, Toldeo Blade or the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who also oppose the measures.

While we’ve slightly slowed the speed at which this bill is moving, we need your help immediately to reinforce our efforts.

Please help stop our legislature from rolling back civil rights 50 years! Call your elected officials by WEDNESDAY, June 3. See details below:

House Committee on Financial Institutions, Housing,
and Urban Development

Call List for Opponents of HB 149 – amending Ohio’s Fair Housing Law

Please call the Committee Leadership (below) with the following message:


I’m calling today to urge Representative _____________ to OPPOSE House Bill 149. I think that Ohio’s Fair Housing Law should not be changed. It has served us well for 50 years, and House Bill 149 makes unnecessary changes that will weaken civil rights laws.

-OR-


I want Representative _____________ to know that House Bill 149 is WRONG FOR OHIO, and that I expect her/him to OPPOSE House Bill 149, in order to protect the strong civil right law that we’ve had in Ohio since 1965.


Louis Terhar (R) – Chairman - Cincinnati area
District 30
Phone (614) 466-8258

Stephen D. Hambley (R) – Vice Chairman – Brunswick area
District 69
Phone (614) 466-8140

Christie Bryant Kuhns (D) – Ranking Member – Cincinnati area
District 32
Phone (614) 466-1645
 
If you are represented by one of the following committee members,
please also call using the same message.

Andrew Brenner (R) – Powell area
District 67
Phone (614) 644-6711

Tim W. Brown (R) – Bowling Green area
District 3
Phone (614) 466-8104

Mike Dovilla (R) – Berea area
District 7
Phone (614) 466-4895

Bob D. Hackett (R) – London area
District 74
Phone (614) 466-1470

Bill Reineke (R) – Tiffin area
District 88
Phone (614) 466-1374

Gary Scherer (R) – Circleville area
District 92
Phone (614) 644-7928

Robert Sprague (R) – Findlay area
District 83
Phone (614) 466-3819

We can stop these bills if we all pitch in. I appreciate your help in protecting 50 years of civil rights progress. Let's slam the door on housing discrimination in Ohio!

Many thanks,

Bill Faith

Executive Director and Chief Lobbyist for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio

Friday
Feb202015

News Stories for this Week

There was an explosive report issued out of the University of Berkeley and proof that cities are making it illegal to be homeless.   The report shows that 58 cities are passing laws that are unequally enforced on homeless people.  They cited anti-camping laws among others as unfairly targeting homeless people for criminal citations. 

Channel 3 has been looking at people who live outside in this extreme cold. They talked to Rick and before that Christine.  They have been talking to people who stay outside.

Channel 19 put aside their tabloid news and did a nice story about the Salvation Army Canteen (not a Cantina).  The Salvation Army feeds hundreds in East Cleveland and Cleveland. 

St. Louis takes steps to make it easier to participate in the voucher program and makes it difficult for landlords to refuse to take a voucher.  We need similar laws that would not allow landlords to discriminate against voucher holders. 

We love the libraries and in Cleveland they are really helpful to homeless people.  This is a story about how libraries are trying to adapt to the number of people who are homeless and using the facility.  This is a Huffington Post article about libraries attempts to help homeless people with jobs and health care. 

How about a public restroom in Cleveland?  New Mexico was looking at introducing a shower bus that goes around the community to help people maintain their hygiene. 

Mother Jones did a long story about Housing First.  I am always dubious about quoting statisitcs (72% drop) when we know how unreliable counting homeless people can be.  They do a good job of outlining all the good items about homelessness.  It does not mention some of the draw backs of the programs or how the programs that are saving money can spend that savings on other homeless people.  It is a good overview of the issues and the program characteristics.

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry.