Chicago, IL

Blagojevich announces program to combat housing discrimination

October 04, 2005
CHICAGO Governor Rod Blagojevich (bluh-GOY'-uh-vitch) says many Illinoisans face housing discrimination due to their race, color, national origin, disabilities or religion.
     His office today announced the creation of a Fair Housing program to help protect home buyers from discrimination.
     The Illinois Department of Human Rights will conduct a series of seminars over the next few weeks in Chicago, Decatur, Peoria and Rantoul.

Illinois residents sue state for violating ADA, failing to provide community services

July 28, 2005
Fifteen years after Congress enacted the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act and six years after the Supreme Court of the United States held that unnecessary institutionalization is discrimination under the ADA, nine Illinois residents with developmental disabilities today sued Illinois state officials, seeking an order that would require the state to provide services within a smaller community setting, instead of segregating people in large private institutions. The class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Illinois charges that by warehousing persons with developmental disabilities in large institutions, the state deprives them of their fundamental right to pursue meaningful and productive lives.
     "I want to live with friends in a small house or apartment and have my own room," says plaintiff Stanley Ligas. "I can do a lot of things on my own, and I want to be able to cook for myself." Instead, he has been forced to live in a large institution for the past 12 years in order to receive Medicaid services, despite his repeated requests to move into the community.
     "I removed my son Isaiah from a private facility after his safety was put at risk and the facility was cited for medical neglect," says Lutricia Fair, mother and guardian of plaintiff Isaiah Fair. "By refusing to provide community services to my son, the state has abandoned me and many other families who do not want their adult children to be served in institutional settings. I hope this case will help my son and all the other people with developmental disabilities who want to live in the community."

Renters with disabilities face bias in Chicago study

July 26, 2005
Wheelchair users and the hearing-impaired are frequently discriminated against when trying to rent apartments in the Chicago area, a federal study released Monday found.
     The study used pairs of testers -- one disabled and the other not -- to compare how landlords treated each tester when they asked about the same apartments.
     The wheelchair users faced discrimination in about one-third of their visits to rental properties, the study found.

Suburbs score poorly in fair housing group's survey

January 18, 2005
The results of a recent survey by Chicago-based Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities concludes these and other suburbs are doing a poor job of promoting and educating residents about their fair housing ordinances.
     The council was established in 1966 by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of a campaign for open housing in Chicago. Its report states a third of municipalities in the state have fair housing laws. Among those surveyed were Arlington Heights, Batavia, Elgin, Glen Ellyn, Hickory Hills, Mount Prospect, Naperville, Oak Lawn, Orland Park, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows, St. Charles and Streamwood.
     Many of these communities have done little, if anything, with their fair housing ordinances, according to the report.

HUD charges Chicago man with violations of the Fair Housing Act

October 07, 2004
The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that it charged Peter Altmayer of Chicago with violating the Fair Housing Act when he harassed and intimidated his neighbors based upon their national origins (Israel and Mexico) and religion (Jewish).
     HUD's investigation showed that in October 1999, Elie Bitton and his family purchased a home next door to Altmayer on Jarvis Avenue in Chicago Illinois. During Bitton's initial meeting with his neighbor, Bitton asked Altmeyer if he was Jewish. Altmeyer responded that he hated Jews. The complainants allege that the harassment began shortly after that first meeting and has continued for over five years.
     Altmayer's conduct included shouting obscenities and death threats, throwing bricks at the Bitton residence, exposing himself and making a number of anti-Semitic remarks.

Stoking racism after 9/11

September 23, 2004
The evidence is finally in, confirming what opponents of the USA PATRIOT Act already knew: The mass roundup and detention of Arabs and Muslims since September 11 has led to a sharp rise in racism. And the situation is getting worse. Last week, Amnesty International issued a report, "Threat and Humiliation," documenting the effects of racial profiling since September 11, 2001.
     In 2002, on the grounds of "national security," immigration authorities ordered young men from predominantly Muslim countries to "voluntarily" present themselves to be questioned, fingerprinted, photographed and assigned a registration number. The program finally ended last December, but the damage was done.
     More than 14,000 of the 83,000 men who complied with the order were deported, forced to leave their families behind--most for minor immigration violations--all without generating a single charge of terrorism. Arab-Americans are three times more likely to have experienced racial profiling than whites, but racial profiling against all nonwhites has been on the rise.

Study finds rent voucher segregation

September 21, 2004
Households using federal housing subsidy vouchers are concentrated in a pattern of economic and racial segregation, according to a report released last week by the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance.
     The Housing Choice Voucher program, started in the 1970s as Section 8, subsidies housing rent for people with low incomes. While some vouchers are designated for use in a specific community, others are "mobile" and can be used anywhere landlords participate in the program.
     The vast majority of voucher-holders are black and the vouchers are primarily used in low-income black areas instead of moving to "opportunity areas," where schools are better and chances for employment are higher, the report concludes. Latinos are under-represented in the program, the report further states.

Settlement ends building policy discriminatory against people with disabilities

September 13, 2004
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois today entered a consent decree resolving a discrimination case brought by a disabled nine-year boy, his parents and the United States against the Triumvera Tower Condominium Association of Glenview, Illinois. The decree mandates the elimination of a policy that discriminated against wheelchair users and awards $83,500 in damages, penalties and attorneys' fees.
     Claudio and Luz Trujillo and their nine-year old son Jaime, who has severe physical and developmental disabilities, sued the Association and its President after they vigorously enforced a policy forbidding wheelchair users from entering the building through the front entrance and forcing them to use the service entrance. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers, including condominium associations, from discriminating "against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a handicap." The Association's actions were analogous to requiring African-Americans to sit at the back of buses or use separate drinking fountains. In this case, the Association's President threatened to fine the Trujillo family and have the front door blocked if their son tried to use it.
     "This consent decree is an important victory for the civil rights of people with disabilities," said Karen Tamley, Director of Programs of Access Living, whose staff lawyers filed the case for the Trujillos. "The Fair Housing Act targets not only physical barriers but also barriers that arise out of prejudice. When a building policy mandates separate – and in this case unequal – facilities for individuals with disabilities, it violates our civil rights." She added, "It is testament to the need for vigorous civil rights enforcement that in 2004, such blatant and hurtful discrimination still occurs."

Ethnic nursing homes grow in Chicago

September 12, 2004
First, Jane Ngo noticed that her mother's few words of English were gone. Then it was her mother's memory of where she lived, even as she stood just steps from her door.
     While the idea of placing 93-year-old Mei Ruan in a nursing home filled her with shame, Ngo knew she could no longer handle the job of caring for her.
     A few blocks away she found the answer in an elder care facility that could offer her Chinese-born mother the things that make her comfortable: Chinese staff talking to her, Chinese movies, Chinese music, Chinese food.
     "She thinks she's back in China," Ngo said.
     Mid America Convalescent Center is one of a growing number of Chicago-area nursing homes that assemble residents by ethnicity. Asians live on one floor, Hispanics are on another.

Chicago bank settles discrimination suit

July 13, 2004
A Chicago-area bank that federal prosecutors say illegally avoided doing business in minority areas has agreed to invest nearly $6 million in predominantly black and Hispanic communities to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit, authorities announced Tuesday.
     The suit alleged that First American Bank Corp. engaged in a practice called redlining, where loans and other services were denied in black and Hispanic neighborhoods in and around Chicago and Kankakee, Ill.
     As part of the settlement, First American Bank must invest $5 million by 2009 in a program to offer residents and small businesses in predominantly minority areas subsidized interest rates. The rates would be at least a half percentage point below what the bank would normally charge - a move U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said would result in about $80 million in extra loans in those areas.

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