Have you ever been discriminated against while searching for a home? Chances are if you are white, healthy and straight probably not, so it may not be something you think about on a regular basis. But before you know it, somehow this phenomenon becomes “those people’s” problems – that they cannot find a home. Yet, there is more than meets the eye, “those people” are your co-workers, your friends, and even the man and woman who sit two pews in front of you at church.

Who are “those people?” It isn’t so simple to say black or white. While skin color may play a very significant portion in housing discrimination, in many scenarios it comes down to sexuality, country of origin, religious beliefs or health reasons. With all the progress the United States has made, civil rights problems still exist today, even after the implementation of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and Fair Housing Amendments Act in 1988.

“A Matter of Place”, is a documentary film that gives voice to and shines a bright light on housing discrimination, one of the most shrouded and misunderstood civil rights issues in America. The film shares the struggles of several individuals who have experienced housing bias in their search for a home in modern-day New York City.  The film will be shown on April 7th at 6pm at The Booker Washington Community Center on 524 Kent St. in Rockford.

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The commentary provided by experts, civil rights advocates, and fair housing investigators share the story of the nation’s history of residential segregation. Their analysis provides insight into why many issues surrounding housing exist today, even with the existence of fair housing laws.

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The documentary also shares how legal services such as the Fair Housing Justice Center have emerged to help victims of illegal housing discrimination. In Illinois, residents of Lake, McHenry, Winnebago, Boone, Peoria or Tazewell Counties who are low income or 60+ years of age may receive free help for serious civil legal problems through The Fair Housing Project at Prairie State Legal Services.

More information on Fair Housing and The Fair Housing Project

Fundamentally, fair housing means that every person can live free. This means that our communities are open and welcoming, free from housing discrimination and hostility. But this also means that each one of us, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability, has access to neighborhoods of opportunity, where our children can attend quality schools, our environment allows us to be healthy, and economic opportunities and self-sufficiency can grow.

The Fair Housing Project is an initiative through Prairie State Legal Services available to people who need relief from housing discrimination. The activity is illegal when a person or family is treated unequally when trying to buy, rent, lease, sell or finance a home because they belong to a certain class. Protected classes include race, national origin, sex, religion, disability and family status, among others. Persons who believe they may have faced unequal treatment in housing can contact the Fair Housing Project toll-free at 855-347-7757.