“They were wonderful! First time I felt peace,” said Ms. Judith Blinn, a 75-year-old widow and retired attorney describing one of Toledo’s resources. The Toledo Fair Housing Center (TFHC), a not-for-profit Center located at 432 N. Superior St. in Toledo, not only talks the talk but has been walking the walk as it fights injustices that arise in housing issues concerning race discrimination as well as discrimination by virtue of national origin, sex, religion, familial status (presence of children), and disability. Michael Marsh, CFRE – President and CEO at the TFHC explains, “The Center serves Lucas and Wood Counties. We are not a government agency. We receive funding through grants and [our service] is free and confidential and there are no restrictions on income” for individuals to receive assistance.
Founded in 1975 by members of The Women of the Old West End and The League of Women Voters, the TFHC adheres to its mission of eliminating housing discrimination to better offer “people access to housing of their choice and to have the opportunities to fulfill their potential” says Sarah Jenkins, TFHC Director of Communications and Outreach. Ms. Blinn met the criteria to receive help from the TFHC based on evidence that she and her apartment were exposed to a toxic pesticide. While sleeping, at around 7:30 am, she said “I felt droplets in my face” as a mist entered her apartment through open windows Ms. Blinn began experiencing physical reactions to the droplets which turned out to be an exposure to a pesticide applied by a lawn company. She was treated for coughing, tearing of her eyes, difficulty in talking and laryngitis. When she was advised to stay out of her apartment, Ms. Blinn asked the landlord to release her from her lease. Her request was denied. After considerable hardship while trying to secure another place to live, Blinn contacted The Toledo Fair Housing Center. It took about a year, but Ms. Blinn, with the help of the TFHC, were able to secure the cancellation of her lease based in part on her landlord’s failure to honor her request for handicap accommodations, as she also suffers from medical disabilities.
Changes over time
Mr. Marsh said, “When I started [with the TFHC, 20 years ago] it was race that received most of the complaints, now the majority of the complaints come from the disabled.” The correlation between those 55 and over and those suffering from some form of disability is striking. The U.S. Census Bureau reported “In 2008–2012, there were 40.7 million people aged 65 and over in the United States. Among this older population, about 15.7 million, or 38.7 percent reported having one or more disabilities.” Given the figures from the census bureau it stands to reason that many individuals 55 and over face discrimination for being disabled which brings into play help from the TFHC, especially when reasonable accommodations are needed but denied. Karen Plocek, TFHC Director of Enforcement and Compliance said the agency endeavors to “help the disabled with needs such as handicapped parking, construction changes such as showers to accommodate the disabled and flashing fire alarms for the hard of hearing and allowing assistance animals when pets are not allowed.” The TFHC partners with the Ability Center of Toledo, receives help from HUD and the Civil Rights Commission. Ms. Jenkins said the TFHC “refers clients to legal aid if their investigation warrants it.”
Should you, or someone you know, have concerns regarding housing discrimination, contact the Toledo Fair Housing Center at 419-243-6163 or visit toledofhc.org.