The Federal Fair Housing Act banned housing discrimination in 1968, but fair housing laws are not self-enforcing. The Fair Housing Center of Southeast and Mid Michigan (FHC) is one of many organizations across the nation, whose mission is to ensure that no one faces discrimination when searching for a place to live. FHC's executive director, Pam Kisch, sits down with WEMU's David Fair to discuss the center's ongoing work for this week's installment of "Washtenaw United."
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
ABOUT PAM KISCH:
Pam Kisch is the Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid Michigan. The Ypsilanti-based organization has investigated over 3,800 fair housing complaints with settlements totaling over $2.2 million. The Fair Housing Center has aided in the filing of over 85 lawsuits including cases with the US Department of Justice and the ACLU of Michigan. Prior to working on fair housing issues, Pam advocated for homeless teens at Ozone House; coordinated a student-led sexual assault prevention and education program, and worked the United Coalition Against Racism at the University of Michigan.
At UWWC, equity is the foundation of our work, from our engagement with donors, to our investment of resources across neighborhoods in our community and in our interactions with the public. We define equity as the presence of justice and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. We commit to equity as a core value and practice in order to advance our mission of connecting people, resources and organizations together to create a thriving community for everyone. Our mission compels us to prioritize historically and systematically excluded or marginalized people. Focusing on race, ethnicity and socio-economic status, as well as other intersectional identities, is necessary to end the historical, social and systemic inequities that persist in our County.
Our investments in organizations like those of the Fair Housing Center help us to realize this vision for anequitable community. FHC used these funds from UWWC to educate and engage more cooperating attorneys to pursue cases of housing discrimination. Their 27 years of experience in this field has illustrated that successful litigation is often the most effective means to ending future illegal practices.
The Fair Housing Center has investigated over 3,300 fair housing complaints and aided in the filing of over 85 lawsuits. The lawsuits cover race, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.
Housing is a foundational need that intersects with all other outcomes. Experiencing housing instability can lead to worse outcomes in all other avenues of life, including health, financial stability, and education. Washtenaw County is the most diverse of the counties in this area, but within Washtenaw County, the African- American population remains relatively segregated, with a higher percentage of the African American population living in the southeast corner of the county.
Fair Housing Center’s work is based on our knowledge of the counties that they serve, as well as past experience in fair housing enforcement. They know that discrimination based on race, disability, and familial status remains high; that most home seekers don’t know their rights to fair housing; and that people with disabilities are suffering needlessly for lack of reasonable accommodations.
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