2004-12-20 Holland Sentinel "Letter to the Editor: Fair housing center a reality"


Fair housing center a reality
Letters to the Editor
BY GAIL HARRISON
The Holland Sentinel

To the Editor:

The Lakeshore Fair Housing Center (LFHC), an initiative of the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism, is now a reality. The hard work of many volunteers over the past four years resulted in verifying the need for fair housing services, securing funding and establishing services for this new non-profit agency.

We are grateful for the challenge grant from Steelcase Foundation and the match from our local funders, which provided funding for the start-up of the LFHC. The LFHC received its Michigan non-profit status, secured an office, and hired an executive director. The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance will serve as the LFHC's fiduciary agency until their federal tax-exempt status is approved.

The LFHC will spend the first year focusing predominately on education and outreach initiatives, working with both the housing industry and community members. The need for understanding fair housing law is a critical first step to ensuring compliance with fair housing law. It is also an important step in helping community members understand their protections under federal, state and local fair housing laws.

A second focus of the LFHC will be to build countywide support for the Center. Promoting understanding and compliance with fair housing law in our townships, municipalities, and county through this educational component is essential to creating a regional approach to affirmatively furthering fair housing.

Finally, the LFHC will work closely with the Fair Housing Center of Greater Grand Rapids as we refer all complaints we receive to their office for investigation and enforcement. The Grand Rapids Center received HUD funding for investigation and enforcement of fair housing laws in an 11-county area, which includes the lakeshore.

A fair housing center provides a strong message that discrimination is not an acceptable value in a community and will not be tolerated. We are fortunate to live in a community which embraces that message.

The newly hired executive director, Charles Jones, brings to the LFHC a wide background of experience and expertise. Anyone interested in learning more about the LFHC or wishing to report possible fair housing violations is encouraged to call the Center at (616) 994-6311.

Gail Harrison,
Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance,
Holland

It's evolution that takes faith
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