The Civil Rights Movement has had a profound impact on the history of our nation. One of the results of that movement was the institution of the Fair Housing Law. The West Penn Rural Fair Housing Initiative is a group (funded by Housing and Urban Development (HUD)) made up of legal service groups along with disability rights organizations.
Southwestern PA Legal Services, Neighborhood Legal Services Association, Laurel Legal Services, Northwestern Legal Services and Mid Penn Legal Services have formed the West Penn Rural Fair Housing Initiative, providing fair housing Education and enforcement services in a service area totaling twenty-four counties. The counties include: Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Washington and Westmoreland in Pennsylvania and four in West Virginia. The initiative also includes Rights Advocates Partners; Disability Options Network (DON) is one of the partners. As a Rights Advocate Partner, DON covers Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties.
Throughout our country’s history different classes of people have been denied freedom of housing choice based upon such characteristics as race, color, gender, ethnic and religious identification. In passing the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Congress determined the fair housing policy. The Act, and its 1988 amendment, establishes seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability.
DON goes out into the various communities throughout Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties and speaks about the Fair Housing Act. We speak about: what is covered (renting, selling, lending etc.), what unlawful discrimination is, and some of the prohibited practices that are associated with it. Additionally, DON explains what the difference is between what a reasonable modification and a reasonable accommodation is and who pays for it. We also discuss the issue of Service Animals.
Most importantly, DON educates and empowers people to take action through the PA and Federal court system. By working with our legal partners, evictions can be stopped; home modifications and accommodations can be made.
DON gives people hope! We try to keep them from being exploited by unscrupulous landlords and we fight on the side of right!