March 28, 2017 – Legal Aid’s Fair Housing Project provides community outreach, education, advocacy and enforcement of all federal, state, and local housing laws to ensure that no Palm Beach County resident is denied access to housing based upon race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
The Project, which began in 1999, is led by Supervising Attorney Tequisha Myles and includes Staff Attorneys Sandra Powery, Denise Mutamba, and Homeless Legal Prevention Project Attorney Latrice Dean, Paralegal Samantha Acosta, Fair Housing Advocate Rick Collier, Legal Assistant Jessica Pierre, Testing Coordinator/Investigator Kammy Sloan, and Education Outreach Coordinator Carlton Smith. Attorneys Rachel Bentley and Andrew Batog and Paralegal Laika Sanchez, who focus on Consumer Advocacy, are also part of the Fair Housing Project.
The Project is funded by two federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under the federal program it covers residents of four counties: Palm Beach, Hendry, Okeechobee, and Martin. It also receives a smaller amount of funding through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from Palm Beach County, City of Boca Raton, City of Delray Beach, and the City of Boynton Beach.
The Project is unique compared to other Legal Aid projects because there is no income limitation for the clients which the Project serves. They will help any victim of discrimination, regardless of their income. The Project works with a wide variety of clientele and they actively work to combat the growing attitude against their clients, especially the homeless and undocumented citizens. The largest number of clients they serve are victims of disability discrimination. They help clients whose residence won’t allow or provide modifications to a dwelling or won’t allow service animals. The Project also helps a large number of clients who have been victims of race discrimination; they are also very proactive in trying to prevent national origin discrimination. They also see a number of clients who have been victims of age, marital status or gender discrimination.
The Project provides an Enforcement Program and an Education Outreach Program in addition to litigation. Within the Enforcement Program they audit residential housing providers to determine if they comply with the Fair Housing Act. The Project does private enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. They conduct investigations and tests based on concerns and complaints that violations may be occurring, which leads to legal or administrative action that could result in a settlement, judgment, or determination. Testers are similar to mystery shoppers; they provide a community service and are provided a stipend for their work.
The Education Outreach Program involves community outreach, educational workshops, and active social media sites to keep the community informed. The Project staff members are active in the community and often have tables at community events to pass out information and to educate the public about their rights and the services we provide. They also offer workshops for community groups, real estate agents, and community agencies. The Project also has very active Facebook and Twitter accounts and educational videos on their You Tube channel.