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:
- Protect people from discrimination based on:
- Source of income (such as a housing voucher)
- Educational status
- Domestic violence victim status
- Form of identification (such as a County ID card)
- 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.
- 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.”
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