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Civil rights groups form partnership

March 24, 2011

Jeff Lorick, executive director of the Terre Haute Human Relations Commission, often receives complaints about unfair housing practices. But until recently, Lorick has had little power to make local landlords comply with fair housing laws.

“We can mediate, but we can’t litigate,” Lorick said. And landlords aren’t always willing to participate in the mediation process.

But now Lorick has some help. The State of Indiana Civil Rights Commission announced on March 21 that it has formed a partnership with the Terre Haute HRC in an effort to bring more services to people in Lorick’s jurisdiction.

Jamal Smith, executive director of the ICRC, said that everyone in the state should have access to the kind of help ICRC provides.

“We feel the best way to do that is to collaborate with folks locally,” Smith said.

The Terre Haute HRC doesn’t receive federal funds and has a limited budget for outreach efforts. But with ICRC’s support, Lorick’s agency will be able to educate more people about discrimination.

“We have a larger staff – attorneys on staff who are versed in the areas of workplace and housing discrimination.” Smith said. “We can provide trainings there locally. We have attorneys on staff that facilitate and coordinate continuing legal education seminars.”

Part of that educational effort will involve reaching out to Terre Haute landlords so that they’re aware of fair housing practices – and the consequences of disregarding them.

Danny Lopez, education director for ICRC, says it has always been ICRC’s responsibility to serve the entire state. But that’s difficult to do without the input of local agencies.

“Way too often … there’s not a lot of communication and collaboration between agencies,” Lopez said. “We’ve been trying to make sure that we address those gaps in a way that makes the most sense.”

Smith said that the ICRC will be canvassing the state in April, which is Fair Housing Month, to get the word out about the benefits of partnering with the state agency.

“Jeff is one of the first of what we hope will be the first of many such partnerships in the state,” Smith said.
 

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