The Fair Housing Education and Outreach Project

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Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and Equality Arizona have been awarded a City of Phoenix grant to provide education and outreach around fair housing issues targeting traditionally underserved populations. Tomas E. Robles Jr., LUCHA executive director talks about the initiative.

JOSE CARDENAS: Living United for Change in Arizona, LUCHA, and Equality Arizona have been awarded a city of Phoenix grant to provide education and outreach around fair housing issues targeting traditionally underserved populations. Joining me to talk about this project is Tomás E. Robles Jr., executive director for LUCHA. Welcome back to "Horizonte." You've been on the show before. We've talked about some of the things that LUCHA is doing. When we say underserved populations, in what sense?

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: Thank you for having me on the program. When we talk about underserved communities, we're talking about main demographics, the LGBTQ community, limited English speakers and the refugee community. These are communities that have been underreported to hud in terms of housing discrimination so this project in partnership with equality Arizona and the city of Phoenix is to do research, outreach and education to these groups.

JOSE CARDENAS: So what have you seen as indicated that they truly are underserved? What has led your organization obviously to believe that there's discrimination going on out there and it's not being addressed?

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: In many cases, many people aren't aware of their rights and what rights you have both as a tenant, as a renter and also as a home buyer. And so in many of these cases, it's not reported because people are afraid because of their documentation status or they don't know who to go to or who to report to when it comes to these instances. Many times, they don't say anything or they just they feel powerless to do so. We're hoping that by using this program and this grant, we're going to be able to teach these individuals about their rights and what they can do if they identify housing discrimination.

JOSE CARDENAS: Let's talk a little bit about these populations in the Phoenix area. I think particularly as regards to refugees. Most people aren't aware that we do have a fairly substantial refugee population. Give us a description of what's going on with that group.

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: So definitely. Many people feel that simulation only from Mexico and that's not the case. We do have a large refugee population from different countries other than Mexico. We have them from central and South America and also from countries in Africa as well and so these populations many times go under the radar, they're still trying to get accustomed to our culture and our standards here in the United States. And so one of the last things they think about are their housing rights and so we're hoping that by educating that group, making them come out of the shadows a little more and understand that although you're here in a brand-new country, you do have some inalienable rights that are given to you regardless.

JOSE CARDENAS: And what about the LGBTQ community, after the uproar a year ago over 1062, what's going on in Indiana right now, brings that up, but is there a sense that things have gotten better, worse?

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: I think things have gotten better. I think there are instances where we have improved and there have been policies and laws in place to protect these groups but more can be done and in a lot of cases, many of these instances just aren't being reported enough so we're hoping that by educating our people, that they can start to see an improvement among the LGBTQ community, and it's also a big thing, especially when you have couples that are trying to rent from home-owners, that sometimes, it's very -- it's masked in a way, it's not deliberate discrimination but there are certain things, for example, oh, you don't want to live here, there are too many kids in the area that make too much noise for your lifestyle. Quotes or comments like that might make them feel like they're not welcome to a particular neighborhood. Those are instances where they may not notice housing discrimination but it's happening around them.

JOSE CARDENAS: And as I understand it from guests we've had in the past, one of the ways to test for this is you send in a minority couple, and then you send in a white Anglo couple and see whether you get different responses.

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: Definitely and that's one of the plans that we have during this 15-month project is to not only take in research but also have these testers go out and see if renters are giving everyone an opportunity to live wherever it is they want to live in the city.

JOSE CARDENAS: How are you going to use the grant moneys and what exactly are you going to do in terms of outreach and education?

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: We're a grassroots organization so as always, we're going to do grassroots. We have two organizers in the field right now that are going to create relationships with LGBTQ communities and organizations, and also refugee and immigrant populations in the community organizations so we'll work there and also we have informational sessions and workshops where we'll teach people their rights, tell them about how to report and housing discrimination and our first one is going to be at the end of April on April 25th.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you expect that you're going to be generating a report that will be turned over to the city or what's going to come from all the efforts in addition to the outreach?

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: Definitely. The reports, and just taking in as much data as possible to see how often it occurs if it does here in the city of Phoenix and also to identify places where we can target those renters that are practicing housing discrimination and figure out a way to stop them from doing it and allow people to really and truly choose where they want to live in this great city.

JOSE CARDENAS: And as the economy improves? Is this more of a problem? Because you have -- maybe when things aren't going so well and there aren't that many renters available for people to rent apartments to, they're not as picky? Do you think it gets tougher when things get better overall?

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: I definitely think it gets tougher for people to have more mobility at times. We've had a lot of anecdotal incidents with our members, LUCHA is a dues-paying organization so our members will tell us about instances where they've wanted to look at a home in a particular neighborhood and they've been shied away from the realtor or they've seen an apartment complex in a nicer part of the valley and because the economy is improving, they've been turned away or not called back and so those are instances where the economic mobility is helping people afford better housing situations but the opportunity to live in those areas are sometimes diminished by who's essentially the gatekeeper to those.

JOSE CARDENAS: We look forward to hearing from you in 15 months about what you found out and thanks for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it.

TOMAS E. ROBLES JR.: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Tomas E. Robles Jr.:Executive Director, Living United for Change in Arizona;

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