We're taking on source of income discrimination against tenants who use Section 8 housing vouchers
 
For Rent sign
More than 140,000 Philadelphia families are rent-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Housing Choice Vouchers, or Section 8, help low-income families navigate the increasingly expensive private rental market. However, in Philadelphia, 67 percent of landlords refuse to accept vouchers, according to a 2018 study from the Urban Institute.

Even though this practice is widespread, it is prohibited under the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance. This law explicitly prohibits landlords from refusing to rent based on source of income, including housing assistance programs. We're representing two Housing Choice Voucher holders who have filed complaints with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations against five Philadelphia landlords and property management companies. Widespread source of income discrimination in Philadelphia keeps low-income renters concentrated in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and it disproportionately affects black families--who make up 80 percent of city voucher holders and 40 percent of Philadelphia renters as a whole. We want to hear from voucher holders who may have experienced source of income discrimination--reach out to William Burstein at wburstein@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1317. 

George Donnelly, our attorney representing the tenants, will appear live this afternoon at 5 p.m. on WURD radio's Reality Check with Charles Ellison. Tune in online here or listen in to 96.1 FM or 900 AM in Philadelphia. Our work taking on source of income discrimination was also covered in an August 15 article in the  Philadelphia Inquirer, " Are landlords required to accept Section 8 vouchers? Philly lawyers think so, according to discrimination complaint.

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Our research showed that inmates in Philadelphia are often released without their belongings in the middle of the night

The Inquirer released a graph prepared with data we obtained showing that most inmates were released when the cashier office was closed
The Inquirer released a graph prepared with data we obtained showing that most inmates were released when the cashier office was closed
In an exposé published on August 12, the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that dozens of inmates in Philadelphia jails were being released each night without any of their personal belongings--including identification and phones. Overall, more than 73 percent of all inmates released from jail between April 2017 and April 2018 were discharged when the cashier's office, which is responsible for distributing their belongings, was closed. We provided the Inquirer with information that we gathered through Right to Know requests and other research tracking what time inmates were released from prison, helping them complete this important investigation.  

The Department of Prisons has taken quick action in response to this report. On August 13, they announced that the cashier office would remain open until 7 p.m. However, this change would only affect 1 percent of all inmates released without their belongings, according to an analysis of this data. We joined other advocates in making it clear that these proposed changes were not enough. Then, on August 26, the Department announced that any inmates released after the cashier's office is closed would now be able to receive their property. They also announced several procedural changes meant to allow more inmates to be released earlier in the day. We welcome this news, and we will continue to monitor the Department of Prisons to ensure that these changes are fully implemented and determine whether further solutions are needed. The first 72 hours after release are crucial for inmates hoping to reenter their communities, and we will strive to do all we can make sure this transition is successful. 

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Learn more about services for students with disabilities preparing for life after school in our new videos! 
 
Check out our video presentation on transition services
Check out our video presentation on transition services

The new school year will be here before we know it. As students head back to class, we are continuing to work to make sure that families of students with IEPs know that their students have the right to receive services to help them transition to life after school. These services can include help finding employment, seeking higher education, or living independently. In our new series of short informative video presentations from our attorney Darlene Hemerka, we highlight what parents and advocates need to know about these vital services. Topics include how to set effective transition goals and specific services students can seek out. Check out our videos on YouTube, and please share widely!

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Help us make the case for fair school funding: donate today to have your donation matched dollar-for-dollar!
 
Students from William Penn School District_ one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit
Students from William Penn School District, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit
Trial is tentatively scheduled for summer 2020 in our lawsuit taking on our grossly unfair and inadequate state school funding system in Pennsylvania. You can help change this unjust status quo by supporting us as we prepare to make the case for students in court.

Our work has reached a new level of intensity as trial approaches. Our attorneys have produced tens of thousands of pages of documents and traveled thousands of miles across the state. We are getting ready to force Pennsylvania state officials to face up to our funding system's failures and make the case for a system where local wealth no longer determines whether schools have what they need to give their students an education that prepares them to thrive. 

Now is the time to be a part of changing this unjust system. Two anonymous donors have pledged a $50,000 matching challenge in support of our school funding lawsuit. Supporters of public education just like you have helped us raise more than $6,000--all of it matched dollar-for-dollar. Can you join them? Your support will help make the case for students across Pennsylvania.

One Donation_ double the impact
 
Blast from the Past: "Women as Police Officers"
 
One of the _findings_ in Police Commissioner Joseph O_Neil_s report on women as police officers_ _A morale problem would develop with male officers because those assigned to work with women would not have confidence in them in a tough situation._
One of the "findings" in Police Commissioner Joseph O' Neil's report on women as police officers

With the recent appointment of Christine Coulter as Acting Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department--the first woman to hold the job--following Richard Ross's resignation in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit, many are reflecting on the treatment of women within the Philadelphia Police Department. 

In the 1970s, we represented Penelope Brace, the Philadelphia Police Officer whose discrimination suits against the Department led, after a long court battle, to the hiring of women as patrol officers and detectives. In our archives from that case, we found a 1974 report from Police Commissioner Joseph O'Neil titled "Women as Police Officers." Even by the standards of the time, its defense of the Department's "unalterable opposition to the theory that females can perform the police function in a urban setting as well as males" is shockingly sexist. Reviewing this document gives insight into the history of women within the Philadelphia Police Department, as well as hope that, like Penelope Brace's case, recent actions against the Department will lead to meaningful change. We reviewed the document in a Twitter thread, and you can read the full report on our website.

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In Pursuit of Justice--Our 50th Anniversary Celebration
 
Invitation to our annual celebration


 

In 1969, we opened our doors in Philadelphia, helping communities stand up against discrimination and poverty. On October 10, join us to celebrate our 50th anniversary with a night of festivities at the new artist space and venue Cherry Street Pier! A special anniversary calls for a special celebration--help us commemorate five decades In Pursuit of Justice! 


 

 

Thursday, October 10

6 - 9 p.m.

Cherry Street Pier

121 N Christopher Columbus Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA 19106


 

 

Tickets are available for $175 per person. For more information about this event, including sponsorship and accessibility, please contact Michael Berton at mberton@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.  


 

Tickets _ Information
Honoree spotlight: The Arc of Pennsylvania
 
Logo for the Arc of Pennsylvania with a photo of Tom Gilhool _left_ and the Pennhurst dining hall _right_

Throughout our history, we have fought for the rights of people with developmental disabilities to fully participate in community life. This work would not be possible without the bravery and commitment of organizations, activists and families in the disability rights movement. As we mark our 50th anniversary, we honor one of these organizations, the Arc of Pennsylvania, with the Thaddeus Stevens Award. The Arc has been our partner in many significant milestones in the battle against the isolation and segregation of people with disabilities.

The Arc of Pennsylvania-formerly known as PARC-was the plaintiff in our 1971 case PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This was the first successful case in the country that established the right of students with disabilities to receive a public education. We partnered with the Arc again to join the class action lawsuit, Halderman v. Pennhurst, filed by residents challenging the horrendous conditions at Pennhurst State School and Hospital. At this large institution, Pennsylvania warehoused and segregated thousands of people with developmental disabilities. After a legal battle of nearly a decade, including three appearances in the United States Supreme Court, we reached a settlement in 1986 to close the facility and provide community-based services for the residents of Pennhurst. We filed additional class action lawsuits in Pennsylvania and across the country over a period of almost 40 years, partnering with the Arc and similar organizations across the country.

All of us owe a debt of gratitude for the pioneering work and courage of the Arc of Pennsylvania for furthering the dignity of our neighbors with disabilities and our society as a whole.