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Housing Equity & Human Rights – Powerful Data

…My experience looking for housing in Kalamazoo is not a good one at all.  I’ve cried and been really mad, at the fact that everywhere you go there is an application fee…. You don’t even know you’re denied, they don’t write you back.  You know because of the silence.  They want you to make 2 or 3 times more than what the rent is.  It’s crazy!59 year old Latina Grandmother
What’s your past got to do with it?  You know what I’m saying?  Everyone on this earth has made mistakes….  Convicting us of what we have done in the past.   I am a man of 65 and you are still convicting me.  I got out in 1993, they are still convicting me!65 year-old Black Man
Me having an old eviction from a long time ago, from back in the day, it still be on there.   It’s hard to get a nice apartment, you know what I mean?  And a good landlord. Even though it’s been over 7 years. It still pops up.”Middle aged Black Woman
I am a resident of the Northside. I’ve been disabled 11 years now. I was a truck driver, out in September 11…. When the second building came down, I got covered in dust. I didn’t know at that time it was people dust.  In my neighborhood, there’s a lot of need. A lot of need for housing. The way I see it, It’s a discrimination against us people with disabilities. Because the pattern and practice of the apartment complex, low-income apartment complex, is that we’re forced to have that, because we have a cap on our income. But they have a practice now, even if you are disabled, if you get like $750 and you get a section 8 voucher for like $500 housing, the apartments complex wants 3 times the income. So, if you have a cap on your income, you’re still short. It’s progressively making a condition for people who have secure income, we can’t afford housing. That’s the number one issue I would like to address.Middle aged Black Man
I want to say this, with me, my thing is, they always do that Criminal background check, okay ain’t nobody perfect. I got felonies. There be places I know I can get…but they do that background check and I have felonies, and it’s over with, you got to move on…. I get treated different….look at the date, my felony was in 1995.Focus group middle aged man

Pictured are Sholanna Lewis, Andrew Chaponda, Gwendolyn Moffitt, Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, Venessa Collins-Smith, Dr. Charlae Davis, Kururama Sanchez and Minister Dorla Coleman-Bonner.

These and many other powerful lived experiences came from listening sessions with 10 focus groups (individuals representing identity groups and protected classes) led by ISAAC last spring, as part of the Government Alliance for Race and Equity Innovation Grant partnership that also included theses partners: Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the City of Kalamazoo, the Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

In these listening sessions, those impacted the most shared their housing journey, current housing concerns, obstacles, and possible solutions. In one particular session there was a large group of community members, with no current housing, lined up outside of the door trying to get into the session in hopes of having their voices heard for change.

The partners also did a survey and got 695 responses, online & on paper (83% non-students, 45% white, 38% Black, 63% Female, 88% City residents) in English and Spanish. We also facilitated meetings and gathered input on housing issues and possible solutions suggested by housing providers and advocates.

We believe that this powerful data, showing the many forms that housing discrimination takes, will help inform our community to support our “Housing Equity and Human Rights” proposals that:

  1. Protect people from discrimination based on:
  • Source of income (such as a housing voucher)
  • Educational status
  • Pregnancy
  • Domestic violence victim status
  • Form of identification (such as a County ID card)
  1. Eliminate blanket policies that automatically disqualify people based on their prior arrest and conviction records and prior eviction records, instead having housing providers look at each individual on a case-by-case basis.
  2. Create a new Human Rights Commission to enforce these protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation.

Stay tuned for future updates on how you can help to build the Beloved Community in Kalamazoo (around housing equity), so that all individuals in our Community are held as Beloved!

“When we talk about affordable housing as an answer to the housing crisis in our community, it is very important we also look at how discrimination functions in our community, and what the barriers that people of color are more likely to face when trying to access housing,” emphasizes Sholanna Lewis, Community Investment Officer – Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation at Kalamazoo Community Foundation. “If we don’t come up with solutions that strengthen fair housing, end discrimination, and improve access, we will never fully address the issue.”

Pictured receiving the Public Ally Award at the ISAAC 2019 Banquet are the partners in the Government Alliance for Race and Equity Innovation Grant Work Group: Minister Dorla Coleman-Bonner from the City of Kalamazoo, (Rev. Barry Petrucci from Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church presenting the award), Commissioner Patrese Griffin from the Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan, Kururama Sanchez and Sholanna Lewis from TRHT at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Dusty Jepkema who was Kalamazoo Community Engagement Liaison for Racial Equity, and Andrew Chaponda from ISAAC.

Do you remember the ISAAC Public Meeting last October, when elected officials responded to the Housing Task Force’s “ask” by pledging to support our “Fair Housing and Fair Chance” proposals?  That “ask” was chosen because the Task Force was inspired by the work of Patrese Griffin to uncover the many forms of housing discrimination happening.  All the work done this year—the listening sessions, research and crafting of our  “Housing Equity and Human Rights” proposals—has resulted from the leadership of Patrese Griffin, Vice President of the Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan and now Kalamazoo City Commissioner, and from the close partnership of ISAAC with TRHT (Truth, Racial Healing and Reconciliation) and with the City of Kalamazoo, the Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

– Andrew Chaponda,, Sholanna Lewis, Commissioner Patrese Griffin, Stephanie Hoffman, Tobi Hanna-Davies and Dr. Charlae Davis