Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hate Crime in Rosedale McDonald's Condemned

The April 18th attack has been widely condemned. Here's the start of the April 23, 2011 Baltimore Sun article:

A transgender woman beaten at a Baltimore County McDonald's spoke out on Saturday, saying that the attack was "definitely a hate crime" and that she's been afraid to go out in public ever since. "They said, 'That's a dude, that's a dude and she's in the female bathroom,' " said Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, who said she stopped at the Rosedale restaurant to use the restroom. "They spit in my face." A worker at the restaurant taped Monday's attack and created a graphic video that went viral last week. After the video garnered hundreds of thousands of views on websites, McDonald's issued a statement condemning the incident, and on Saturday the worker who taped the incident was fired. The video shows two females — one of them a 14-year-old girl — repeatedly kicking and punching Polis in the head as an employee and a patron try to intervene. Others can be heard laughing, and men are seen standing idly by. Toward the end of the video, one of the suspects lands a punishing blow to the victim's head, and Polis appears to have a seizure. A man's voice tells the women to run because police are coming.

While a manager yelled for it to stop, other employees videotaped the attack (which went viral on YouTube), until a woman intervened. Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger put it well about this courageous person: "I would also like to acknowledge the brave actions of my constituent, who is a true hero. Vicky Thoms, a fellow Rosedale resident, intervened on the victim's behalf without regard for her own safety. While others stood by watching, Ms. Thoms put herself in harm's way to help a stranger. She is the definition of the word "neighbor," and I hope we can all learn from her example."

According to an article in the New York Daily News, "a LGBT advocacy group is calling for authorities to investigate the case as a hate crime."

On April 25th, hundreds of people rallied in front of the McDonald’s restaurant to show their support and solidarity. Read about that here. has a petition that McDonalds employees who saw the crime but did nothing be held responsible. did say: "Not surprisingly, McDonald's lacks standard policies for protecting transgender individuals, despite a decent record of workplace discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. And while the company has pledged to 'take appropriate action' against all employees involved in this heinous event, just one has been punished."

Baltimore County police arrested an 18-year-old woman in the assault, and she faces first- and second-degree assault charges, and is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $150,000 bail.

Let's hope all of this stirs Maryland legislators in the 2012 Session to do the right thing - to strengthen and widen the law to stop these hate crimes.

Ethnic Majority Website

Ethnic Majority is an interesting, informative web site. It has a variety of materials affecting ethnic and racial groups: breaking news, a jobs search database, a newsletter, & other stuff. It includes info on education, housing, media, business, politics, etc. Definitely worth visiting.

HUD Releases Worst Case Housing Needs of People with Disabilities

HUD just has released an update to its 2009 study, which has national estimates of the number of households that include people with disabilities who have worst case housing needs and their characteristics. It is a supplement to the Worst Case Housing Needs 2009: Report to Congress, released in February, 2011. The study is here.

The major findings of the study are:
  • In 2009, approximately 1 million households that included nonelderly people with disabilities had worst case needs - 38% of all very low-income renter households with disabilities.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, there was a 13% increase of worst case needs households that included people with disabilities.
  • Renter households including people with disabilities are more likely to have very low incomes, experience worst case needs, pay more than one-half of their income for rent, and have other housing problems (e.g., living in inadequate or overcrowded housing).
  • Nonelderly people with disabilities are more likely to be in renter households than among owner households, although most households that include nonelderly people with disabilities are owner occupied.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

FCC Acts Against Race/Ethnic Discrimination in Advertising

On March 22nd, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued an ‘enforcement advisory’ that reminds broadcasters and advertisers that advertising contracts that contain ‘no urban/no Spanish’ clauses are illegal because they are discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity.

The so-called no-Spanish clause has meant approximately $200 million annual loss to those outlets. Read the FCC Press Release. Read the Hispanically Speaking News release.

HUD's Predatory Lending Info & Materials

The HUD website has some helpful information & materials about predatory lending here, but I will copy & paste them:

Protect yourself from predatory lenders:
For information about loan fraud and advice about preventing it, see Don't Be A Victim of Loan Fraud.

Local information on predatory lending:
Here are some Local Resources by state, that can help you avoid being a victim of predatory lending.

For FHA loans:
For problems relating to origination, underwriting, or appraisals of FHA loans, contact the FHA Resource Center.

Avoiding foreclosure on an FHA loan:
Visit the HUD National Servicing Center web page and have your FHA case number at hand. You will find your case number on the mortgage settlement statement.

Non-FHA mortgage loans:
For complaints concerning practices which include disclosure of interest rates and finance charges (APR), prepayment penalties, credit life insurance, fraud, deception, etc. contact the appropriate agency from this list to complain about the mortgage lender or mortgage broker.

Lender threatening to foreclose or mortgage in default:
HUD funds housing counseling agencies throughout the country. To find a housing counseling agency near you, call toll-free (800) 569-4287 immediately for free guidance or visit the web page.

Settlement Procedures:
(FHA and non-FHA mortgages). Visit the RESPA web page for information on RESPA disclosure requirements such as the Good Faith Estimate, HUD-1 and escrow account statements, and how to file a complaint with your lender concerning the servicing of your loan.

If you are still unsure who can best help you, please let us know.

File a housing discrimination complaint:
Discrimination in mortgage lending is prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act and HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity actively enforces those provisions of the law. Learn how the Fair Housing Act can help you fight predatory lending.

HUD will concentrate on National Origin Housing Discrimination in April

HUD will concentrate on National Origin discrimination in April. As part of its Fair Housing Month activities, HUD announced on April 11th it will "launch an effort to better address national origin based housing discrimination." The effort will consist of a national media campaign and various community discussions on rental practices to mortgage lending.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental, sales or home lending transactions based on a person's national origin. This includes discrimination based on a person's ancestry, country of birth outside the United States, and the language they speak. National origin discrimination often involves immigrants or non-English speaking individuals, but can also involve native-born U. S. citizens based on their family ancestry. This type of discrimination may also occur in conjunction with the other protections of the Fair Housing Act against race, color, religion, gender, disability, and family status discrimination.

HUD's first Immigrant Housing Conference, which will underline Fair Housing rights and responsibilities, will be in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 14.

Friday, April 1, 2011

HUD's Cityscape Tackles Homelessness

The latest issue of Cityscape, distributed by HUD's Office of Policy Development & Research, examines homelessness and the organizations that help the homeless. This Cityscape provides a snapshot of homelessness in America and represents outstanding HUD-sponsored research.

Beginning with this issue, Cityscape will also have reactions to the Symposium articles from foreign scholars of like issues. Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Julie Christian of the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom pointed to groundbreaking European analyses of housing and social inclusion.

Read the latest issue of Cityscape.

April is National Fair Housing Month!

Washington, DC - April 1, 2011 - (RealEstateRama) — The National Association of Realtors® will join Americans across the country as they honor Fair Housing Month this April. As the leading advocate for home ownership, NAR strongly supports the Fair Housing Act and believes that anyone who is able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home should have the opportunity to pursue that dream.

States' Budget Woes Affect Those with Mental Disabilities

In this recession, in order to close historic budget gaps states have cut $2.1 billion from their mental health budgets in the last three fiscal years, according to a study from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors’ Research Institute. A new study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness finds that between fiscal years 2009 and 2011, over 12 states and the District of Columbia reduced their mental health budgets by more than 10 percent. The upcoming budgets, however, will be worse. Until this summer, federal stimulus money - which ends this summer - has put $103 billion into the states through Medicaid since 2009 - keeping state-run health insurance programs alive. Meanwhile, growing demands for help show few signs of abating, say mental health authorities. On top of this, there is more demand for the shrinking pool of public services because of unemployment and general economic malaise. "The safety net,” says Marylou Sudders, former Massachusetts commissioner for mental health, “is shredded.”

These cuts hurt those with mental disabilities worse than others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, while ailments like depression occur in about one in four adults, 6% of the U.S. population has a serious mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) and mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada. People with severe mental illnesses are more likely to have low incomes because their education was interrupted by the disease, according to Elaine Alfano, deputy policy director for the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Employers are hesitant to hire them and their treatment is expensive, so they cost governments dearly if they qualify for public support.

According to the state directors’ survey in fiscal 2010 and 2011, half the states reported reducing the number of hospital beds in state-run psychiatric hospitals. States have limited the funding they give to out-patient providers and have cut staff. One-third of states have reduced the number of people their programs serve.

Read the March 9, 2011 Center for Public Integrity article:

Upcoming Calendar

April 8-9 - John Marshall Law School "Investigating and Resolving Fair Housing Cases" (Chicago, IL).

April 9 - Howard County Housing Fair - Howard County Housing will host the “Come Home to Howard County” Housing Fair on Saturday, April 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Long Reach High School, 6101 Old Dobbin Lane in Columbia. The event is free and open to the public. For registration:

April 11 - BNI's 2nd Annual Fair Housing & Landlord Tenant Boot Camp.

April 8 - Third Annual Veterans' Legal Assistance Conference - 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. University of Maryland School of Law, 500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore 21202.

April 14 - 10th Annual Frederick County Fair Housing Conference. Location: The City of Frederick Municipal Annex Building located at 140 West Patrick Street. Sponsored by the Frederick County Fair Housing Commission and the Frederick County Association of Realtors. Info: Eileen Barnhard, Community Development Housing Financial Specialist for the City of Frederick at 301.600.2842 or

April 26 - Baltimore County Human Relations Commission Fair Housing Conference, Randallstown, Maryland. Info: 410-887-5917.

June 4-7 - National Fair Housing Alliance National Conference (Washington, DC)

July 21-23 - Listening and Spoken Language Symposium - Thhe AG Bell 2011 Listening & Spoken Language Symposium will be held at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C.

September 9-10 - John Marshall Law School 2011 National Conference (Chicago, IL).

Paralyzed Veterans Sues Hunt Corporation for Housing Discrimination, Maryland Complexes Included

The real estate developer has been accused of Fair Housing Act violations in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina apartment complexes. The suit was filed by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) against the HHHunt Corporation, and is based on the joint investigation by Paralyzed Veterans and NFHA of several of HHHunt's properties in North Carolina and South Carolina, and properties in Maryland and Virginia. The Fair Housing Act's design and construction accessibility requirements require that apartment and condominium complexes contain seven basic accessibility features so that they are useable by people with disabilities. The Maryland complex is Abberly Crest in Lexington Park.

The lawsuit alleges that since at least 2002, the HHHunt Corporation has engaged in a continuous pattern or practice of discrimination by designing and constructing multifamily dwellings, and common- and public-use areas, without those required accessibility features. Cited problems included: "primary entry doors with thresholds that are too high; large steps blocking routes to entry doors; hazardously steep sidewalk slopes; accessible parking without the required access aisle for people with mobility impairments to leave or enter their parked vehicles; and kitchens and bathrooms with insufficient maneuvering space for wheelchair users at sinks and toilets."

Read the March 15, 2011 article:

Racial Profiling Alleged in Illinois

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights ( has requested the DOJ to investigate racial profiling at the McHenry County, Illinois, sheriff's office. The Northwest Herald reports that the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights asked the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation. The group wants to know if the department is incorrectly listing the race of Latinos on tickets. Coalition director Joshua Hoyt says more Latinos are stopped and are being systematically misclassified. An attorney for the sheriff's office said, "Racial profiling, such as pulling people over because they are Latino, is a serious accusation." (

The ICIRR recently "celebrated with religious, civil rights and immigrant leaders the defeat of 10 anti-immigrant bills recently introduced in the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives. Due to Congressional failure to pass immigration reform, many states, including Illinois, have introduced legislation that would impact the lives of immigrants. Participants thanked State Rep. Greg Harris, who is the Chair of the Human Services Committee and responsible for stopping these bills to pass his committee. “By blocking these hate bills we are affirming that Illinois is home,” said State Representative Greg Harris (D-13). 'We are showing that our state is not Arizona and that Illinoisans don’t buy in the politics of hate.'"

The ICIRR is "dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. In partnership with its member organizations, ICIRR educates and organizes immigrant and refugee communities to assert their rights; promotes citizenship and civic participation; monitors, analyzes, and advocates on immigrant-related issues; and, informs the general public about the contributions of immigrants and refugees."

Read the March 31, 2011 Northwest Herald article:

Higher Discriminatory Rents for Tenants with Health/Therapy Dogs

A North Dakota federal judge has refused to throw out a lawsuit claiming discrimination against a Fargo property manager. Fair Housing of the Dakotas, a nonprofit advocacy group (which was closed in 2010-2011 because of lack of funding), accuses Goldmark Property Management of a "pattern of discrimination" in charging tenants higher rents and assessing fees. Fair Housing says Goldmark illegally charged tenants extra for keeping dogs they needed for their health or therapy. It seems pretty clear this is a reasonable accommodation. Read the April 1, 2011 Greenfield Reporter article:

Great Place for Fair Housing News

The National Fair Housing Advocate's website has some breaking news, legal research, tools, links, etc. It's worth a view:

Free Consumer Law Webinars Offered

The National Community Law Center (NCLC) is broadcasting free webinars on a variety of subjects interesting to consumers. While most are through its elder rights initiative —the National Elder Rights Training Project of the National Legal Resource Center sponsored by the Administration on Aging, others include auto fraud, domestic violence survivors, and others, such as:
  • Foreclosure Prevention.
  • Debt Collection.
  • The Protection of Exempt Benefits.
  • Bankruptcy.
  • Effective Health Care Planning.
  • Cars and Working Families: Cash for Clunkers.
  • Credit Reporting and Repair for Domestic Violence Survivors.
Check it out: