Workshop and
Speakers


#FHCRC2024

18TH ANNUAL

Fair Housing &
Civil Rights Conference

April 10–12, 2024

2024 Conference Workshops

 April 10, 2024


9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Register

Morning Plenary: Affirmative Action

Zelda Harris, Dean of WNEU School of Law.
Sheldon Lyke, Associate Professor, Loyola School of Law.

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Building a Career in Advocacy

Presented by:
Chelsea Donaldson, Staff Attorney, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center.
Caroline Foley, Staff Attorney, Immigration Unit, Central West Justice.
Chiedza Rodriguez, Attorney, CT Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Join us for a conversation with three attorneys in government and legal aid to talk about their path to their work, as well as the challenges and triumphs of working in public interest advocacy. For those just starting their careers or for anyone seeking to connect with others who have chosen mission-driven work, these panelists will have an open conversation about their journeys, staying sharp in an ever-changing field, finding motivation, and avoiding burnout.


10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Addressing Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) in the World of Work

Presented by:
Jill Ashton, Northeast Regional Administrator for the US Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau.
Alison Bitterly, Trial Attorney, US EEOC New York District Office.
Alison Stanton, Vice President of Community & Citizenship of Turner Construction Company.
Shamaiah Turner, Business Representative for the Northeast Regional Council, SMART

Women deserve safe and respectful workplaces but cannot achieve equality and economic security for themselves and their families as long as gender-based violence and harassment persists. Learn about how the Women’s Bureau, in partnership with the International Labour Organization, alongside federal partners at EEOC are working to champion policies and standards throughout the U.S. by encouraging the integration of ILO C190 – Violence and Harassment Convention strategies in policies and laws to prevent and address GBVH in the world of work.

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Fair Housing: How State Agencies can Support Fair Housing Advocates and Protect Fair Housing Rights

Jillian Fisher, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Kimberly Jacobsen,
Managing Director, Employment Commission Counsel, Legal Division at Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Malcolm Peyton-Cook, Associate Director for Affirmative Enforcement, New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.

Representatives from state commissions against discrimination share their perspective on statewide efforts to enforce civil rights laws. They will discuss how statewide agencies promote and protect civil rights, and the trends they’ve seen in the past year.

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

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Lunchtime Plenary

State of Fair Housing
Hear from fair housing center advocates on tools and strategies on the ground, including litigating with the state agencies as well as in state and federal court to enforce civil rights laws.

Moderator:  Rashida Rattray,  Education & Outreach Coordinator, CT Fair Housing Center.

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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Fair Housing 101

Presented by:
H. John Fisher, Way Finders.
Michelin Cahill, Community Legal Aid.

When we speak of fair housing rights, we are drawing on an interplay of federal and state regulations that can vary in their specifics from state to state but still share a common purpose. With primary focus on one state (Massachusetts), this workshop will explore the basics of how federal and state fair housing laws can join together to create an overall pattern of protection.

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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Hands On Defense Model – Preventing Housing Discrimination for Justice-Involved Individuals

Presented by:
Leslie Credle, Founder and Executive Director of Justice 4 Housing (J4H).
Riley Smith,  Hands On Defense Program Manager, Justice 4 Housing.

J4H will conduct a workshop on how to use its copywritten Hands On Defense (HOD) model. HOD disrupts the discriminatory process that public housing authorities use to exclude individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. The HOD model has been 97% successful at effectively mitigating evictions, reasonable accommodations and overturning denial of public housing/vouchers at the appellate level. Attendees will learn the HOD process and other innovative ways to successfully house justice-involved and formerly incarcerated individuals who have experienced an unfavorable CORI background screening.

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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Police Misconduct

Bill Newman, ACLU of Massachusetts

 

 April 11, 2024

9:00 a.m. to 10:00a.m.

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Morning Plenary

Emily Drabinski, President, American Library Association

 

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Low-Barrier Service Models, Harm Reduction, and Housing First

Presented by: Melanie Alvarez, Director of Programs, The Friendship Center.

Low-barrier service models are essential for serving people experiencing homelessness. By incorporating Housing First principles, providers can promote accessibility and equity when addressing needs of individuals in crisis. Starting with a focus on addressing housing needs, and identifying safe and appropriate diversion to alternative housing opportunities, this approach centers the person in finding housing solutions.

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Emergency Assistance/Homelessness and Migrant Crisis in Massachusetts

Panelists:
Elizabeth Alfred, Staff Attorney – EA Shelter, Greater Boston Legal Services
Alexandra J. Bonazoli, Coordinating Attorney, Immigration Unit, Central West Justice Center
Massachusetts is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with high rents and low inventory leading to increased displacement and homelessness. While Massachusetts has long led the country by providing a unique, limited right to shelter for eligible pregnant individuals and families with children experiencing homelessness, the past couple years have seen that system strained to capacity, and new, unprecedented limits implemented, including a waitlist system. This panel will explore different civil rights facets of this ongoing crisis, including issues relating to housing discrimination, anti-immigrant bias, and others.

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Environmental Justice

Panelists:
John Fisher, Fair Housing Manager, Way Finders.
Samantha Hamilton,Director of Coalition Building and Community Engagement for the Public Health Agency of Western Massachusetts.
Rusty Polsgrove,
Environmental Justice Organizer, Arise Springfield.
Doug Quattrochi, Executive Director, Massachusetts Landlords.

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

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Lunchtime Plenary
Rights at Risk: Understanding and Exploring LGBTQ+ Rights In Turbulent Times

Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights at GLAD and Professor at WNEU School of Law.

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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EEOC Listening Session

Panelists:
Anastasia Doherty, Trial Attorney, Boston Area Office of the EEOC.
Alvin Mallette, Lead Education & Outreach Coordinator, New York District.
Elizabeth Marcus, Mediator, EEOC.

A lively session that will cover topics like artificial intelligence, construction, EEOC’s new Strategic Enforcement Plan and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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Civil Paths to Policing

Panelists:
Alyssa Golden, CORI/Reentry Senior Supervising Attorney, Community Legal Aid.
Rafael Irizarry-Fields, Staff Attorney, Public Defender Division, Committee for Public Counsel Services.
Madeline Weaver Blanchette, Senior Supervising Attorney, Family Preservation Project, Community Legal Aid.

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

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Reimagining Our Approaches to Sheltering People Experiencing Homelessness

Panelists:
Shaundell Diaz, Coordinated Entry Coordinator, Three County Continuum of Care, Community Action Pioneer Valley.
Matthew Doherty, Consultant, Matthew Doherty Consulting.
Tim McCarthy, Director, Craigs Doors.
Nan Sibley, Community Action Pioneer Valley.

The national Framework for an Equitable Homelessness Response project helps people responsible for solving homelessness – local leaders, city officials, housing and services providers, organizations, state health and human services departments, and many others – reimagine their systems and make innovative changes so that everyone has a safe place to live. In this workshop, participants will learn about the Framework project’s effort to transform how communities shelter people experiencing homelessness and recommended approaches and principles for such transformation efforts. Participants will be asked to actively explore how their organizations and partners can begin to apply those approaches and principles within their own communities.

April 12, 2024

9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

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Morning Plenary

Andrew Leland. Author, “The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight” 

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Essential But Ignored: Civil Rights Issues Facing Farmworkers

Panelists:
Claudia Quintero, Central West Justice Center, Seasonal and Migrant Farmworker Unit Attorney and WNEU School of Law Professor.
Maya McCann, Central West Justice Center, Seasonal and Migrant Farmworker Unit, Farmworker Medical Legal Partnership Attorney and EJW Fellow.

 

Farm work is skilled, difficult labor and farmworkers were one of the first groups deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they are certainly not treated that way. In fact, farmworkers are one of the most underserved and exploited groups in the Commonwealth, subjected by law and by practice to regular civil rights abuses. Farmworkers are excluded from state minimum wage and overtime protections, entitled only to a subminimum wage of $8/hr. These exemptions are remnants of racist exclusions carved by southern legislators during the passage of the New Deal who desired to keep a then largely African American agricultural workforce, exploitable. Today, most farmworkers in Massachusetts are immigrant workers who live year-round in our communities, and work primarily seasonal farm jobs. Adding to the legal inequities in pay, farmworkers often contend with other factors like lack of immigration status, language barriers, and isolation in living and working environments, that render them particularly vulnerable to civil rights abuses in housing and employment. Farmworkers often experience denials of their basic employment and tenancy rights, discrimination and threats of immigration enforcement, and general housing and job instability. Focusing on the housing and employment contexts, this workshop will examine the challenges faced by farmworkers in these realms and explore the law, policy, and environmental factors that facilitate their exploitation. We will discuss how farmworkers may be missed by traditional models of service provision and
existing advocacy efforts and explore how advocates can collaborate across fields and change how we practice to overcome these barriers, and create meaningful change. We will examine a local Farmworker Medical Legal Partnership and legislative efforts of the Fairness for Farmworkers Coalition. Participants will be challenged to think about other communities that face similar barriers and how service provision and advocacy need to be adjusted to bring in and better serve those populations.

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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Tools for Protecting and Promoting Affordable Housing in our Communities

Panelists:
Maria Cuerda, Fair Housing Testing Coordinator, CT Fair Housing Center.
Pamela Heller, Staff Attorney, and Co-Director of Fair Housing Enforcement, CT Fair Housing Center.
Rose Webster Smith, Program Director, Springfield No One Leaves.

Maureen St. Cyr, Executive Director, Massachusetts Fair Housing Center.

Creative advocacy and community-building is more necessary than ever to protect and expand safe, affordable housing in our communities. Staff from fair housing organizations along with tenant organizers discuss tools and strategies they’re using to address the affordable housing shortage in the region. The panel will include their perspectives on preventing and combatting source of income and voucher discrimination, the latest gains in tenant organizing, and where they’re focusing their legislative advocacy for a more equitable housing landscape.

10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

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The Future of Civil Rights: Tools for Advancing Democracy

Moderator: Bob Terrell, Executive Director, Boston Fair Housing Commission

An examination of the major trends and issues in fair housing, civil rights and democracy today. Participants will not only learn the importance of these issues but why they are strategic for the future of democracy in the United States. This workshop is designed to be informative to any and all participants at the conference but will have significant impact even on those with little civil rights background.

 Panelists:

Zakiya Alake, Education and Outreach manager, Boston Fair Housing Commission
Dwayne Watts, Deputy Director, Boston Fair Housing Commission
Jamie Williamson, Executive Director, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Region II 

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

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Lunchtime Plenary

Tackey Chan. State Representative, Massachusetts, 2nd Norfolk District

 

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, of a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

— John Lewis