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The Right to Safe, Decent, and Discrimination-Free Housing

/ Blog Post

Home should be a safe place. For a group of tenants living at the Woods of Savannah, a Project-Based Section 8 housing complex for individuals who are at least 62 years old or have disabilities, the experience was anything but safe and decent.

The tenants, three single African American women with disabilities, faced repeated instances of racial harassment while living at the complex—white tenants, for example, would use their dogs to threaten the women and block their access to common areas. The women endured racial slurs, physical threats, stalking, harassment at work, and being the subject of false police reports.

Unsafe, dehumanized, and wanting the abuse to end, the women submitted dozens of complaints to the property management but were ignored. The property management refused to investigate these allegations and threatened the women with eviction if they did not stop filing complaints.

Photo of Allison Slagowitz (left) at a 2019 Georgia Housing Corps training event

Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord can be held liable for tenant-on-tenant race-based harassment when the landlord knew or should have known about the discriminatory conduct and failed to take prompt, reasonable action. Alison Slagowitz, a 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow in the Georgia Housing Corps who is hosted by Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP), took the case to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), submitting Fair Housing Act complaints for each client. She provided HUD with a detailed investigation report, including timelines of major incidents of harassment and documentary evidence.

Thanks to Alison’s incredible work, the parties reached a settlement through HUD’s conciliation process that provided financial compensation to the three clients and others affected by the hostile environment. Additionally, the property management was required to implement annual mandatory employee trainings on anti-discrimination laws and trainings for residents on diversity and inclusion.

“GLSP is very proud of the work that Alison is doing in Savannah,” said Georgia Legal Services Program Executive Director Rick Rufolo. “She is a fearless advocate and constantly looks for ways to break barriers and help protect the rights of vulnerable populations, including ex-offenders and people of color.”

Following her Fellowship, Alison plans to stay on with GLSP as a staff attorney, continuing her work to fight for housing stability and security in the private and public sectors. She was recently selected to join the Shriver Center on Poverty Law Racial Justice Institute, where she will use her legal background to advocate for and with people who are most impacted by injustice in the housing system.

To learn more about Alison’s Fellowship, visit her Fellow profile. The Georgia Housing Corps is supported by the Georgia Bar Foundation.

Alison is a fearless advocate and constantly looks for ways to break barriers and help protect the rights of vulnerable populations, including ex-offenders and people of color.

Rick Rufolo /
Executive Director
Georgia Legal Services Program

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow