Category Archives: CoC Updates

Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment and Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Manager and Owners of Virginia Rental Properties

The Justice Department today announced that Gary T. Price, a manager of rental properties in and around Harrisonburg, Virginia, together with owners of the properties, Alberta Lowery and GTP Investment Properties, LLC, will pay $335,000 to resolve allegations that Price sexually harassed multiple female tenants and discriminated in housing on the basis of race in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.      

The consent decree, which must still be approved by the court, will resolve a complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia alleging that Price violated the Fair Housing Act by making unwelcome sexual comments and advances toward female tenants, offering housing benefits in exchange for sexual acts, and taking or threatening adverse housing actions against women who refused his sexual demands.  The complaint also alleges that Price violated the Act by using racial slurs with respect to tenants and tenants’ guests, and by prohibiting or attempting to prohibit tenants from entertaining African-American guests in their homes because of the guests’ race.  Alberta Lowery and GTP Investment Properties, LLC are named as defendants in the lawsuit because they are owners of properties at which the discriminatory conduct took place and Price was acting as their agent when he engaged in the illegal acts.   

“No woman should ever have to endure abusive and demeaning sexual harassment to secure housing for herself or her family, nor should any individual be subjected to vile racial harassment or other race discrimination related to housing,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “Such conduct is both illegal and reprehensible, and the Justice Department will work vigorously and tirelessly to combat these types of discrimination and obtain relief for victims.”

“Our office has prioritized combatting sexual harassment in housing, as is evidenced in this significant investigation and resolution,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar. “We will continue to seek to end this illegal practice and recognize the difficult challenges faced by women, particularly in today’s trying times, who are simply seeking to provide basic needs for their families.  Today’s settlement ought to send a strong message that we will not tolerate harassment and discrimination in housing and will continue to closely partner with the Civil Rights Division to enforce the Fair Housing Act.”

Under the consent decree, the defendants will pay $330,000 to compensate eight victims of discrimination already identified by the Justice Department, together with any additional individuals who have been harmed by defendants’ discriminatory conduct.  In addition, defendants must pay $5,000 as a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest.  The consent decree also bars Gary Price from participating in the management of rental properties in the future and requires defendants to take other steps to prevent future discrimination. 

Individuals who believe they may have been victims of sexual harassment, race discrimination or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by Gary T. Price, Alberta Lowery or GTP Investment Properties, LLC, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line toll free, at 1-833-591-0291 and, after selecting English or Spanish, press 22 to leave a message in the voicemail box related to U.S. v. Gary Price, GTP Properties, and Alberta Lowery.

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department.  The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability.  Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited sex discrimination under this law.  The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country.  The Attorney General recently reaffirmed this commitment by directing the Justice Department to deploy all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing.  The goal of the department’s initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing.  As part of the initiative, the Justice Department developed a public service announcement and formed a joint task force with HUD to combat sexual harassment in housing.

Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 19 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.  The Justice Department has filed or settled 24 sexual harassment cases since January 2017, providing for over $3.1 million for victims of sexual harassment in housing.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the civil rights laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.  Individuals who believe they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other forms of housing discrimination can submit a report to the Department of Justice by calling 1-800-896-7743 or visiting civilrights.justice.gov, or to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by calling 1-800-669-9777 or visiting HUD’s website.

State Funding Awarded For COVID-19

WESTERN VIRGINIA CONTINUUM OF CARE AWARDED STATE FUNDING FOR COVID-19 RELATED EMERGENCY SHELTER & HOUSING SUPPORT

This spring and summer, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) awarded the Western Virginia Continuum of Care (CoC) funding to support housing and shelter programs for those most vulnerable during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic through DHCD’s COVID Homelessness Emergency Response Program (CHERP). The goals of CHERP are first, ensuring “access to safe, 24/7, emergency shelter” for those experiencing homelessness and second, helping “households maintain or obtain permanent housing and receive the housing-focused supportive services necessary to retain permanent housing.” To date, the Western Virginia CoC has received $657,294 through CHERP funding awards.

The funding from DHCD’s CHERP provides financial support for emergency shelter operations (included hotel/motel vouchers) and rapid re-housing programs throughout the CoC. Nine regional agencies have received funding and included: in Front Royal, Northwestern Community Services Board and The Thermal Shelter of Front Royal; in Harrisonburg, First Step, Mercy House, Open Doors, and Our Community Place; in Winchester, AIDS Response Effort and Winchester Rescue Mission; and in Woodstock, Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter. These agencies have worked closely with the CoC Lead Agency (Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority), government officials, and other organizations in their respective localities to continue providing emergency shelter options and housing support services during the pandemic.

The Western Virginia Continuum of Care (CoC) is a collaboration of nonprofits, governments, schools, hospitals, law enforcement, and community members that works to prevent and end homelessness in the Shenandoah Valley. The CoC area includes Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and the cities of Harrisonburg and Winchester.

Western Virginia Continuum of Care Welcomes New Coordinator

The Western Virginia Continuum of Care (CoC) is proud to announce and welcome Isaiah Mejah as the new CoC Coordinator.  Mejah will be responsible for providing administrative and project leadership in planning, developing, writing, and monitoring the CoC administrative plans, policy and procedures, grants, and Continuum lead initiatives to end homelessness in the region.

Mejah comes to the Western Virginia CoC from Pleasant View, Inc., where he served as Program Coordinator.  During to his tenure at Pleasant View, Mejah coordinated daily activities for two programs and collaborated with various community stakeholders in the health and advocacy field to ensure members of our community with disabilities meet their full potential.  In his role at Pleasant View, Mejah supervised 30 members of staff, conducted inter-organizational communications, and stayed updated on state and federal regulations related to programming at Pleasant View.  In addition to his role as Program Coordinator, Mejah also served as Green Committee Chair to support Pleasant View in meeting their financial needs and bolstering plans for the future.  Prior to his work at Pleasant View, Mejah worked at James Madison University (JMU).  Mejah received his Master of Arts in Communication and Advocacy from JMU and is fluent in four languages. 

Mejah stepped into the CoC Coordinator position on July 27.

Rent and Mortgage Relief Program

On June 10, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) announced the launching of the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP). The RMRP is designed to support and ensure housing stability across the Commonwealth during the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition to stabilizing housing, efforts to help individuals and families maintain their housing is in the interest of public health. Through the RMRP, financial assistance will be provided on behalf of households who are experiencing housing instability due the pandemic.

Depending on availability of funds and household need, the RMRP may provide financial assistance
for rent or mortgage payments for eligible households. The flier below contains more detailed information on eligibility and required documentation:

For residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, the phone number to access assistance is 540-216-2350.

For residents of Northern Shenandoah, People Inc. is offering RMRP assistance to residents in the service areas listed below. Residents interested in learning more can call their toll free Rental Assistance number at 833-437-0114.

· Bristol City

· Buchanan County

· City of Winchester

· Clarke County

· Culpeper County

· Dickenson County

· Fauquier County

· Frederick County

· Madison County

· Orange County

· Page County

· Rappahannock County

· Russell County

· Shenandoah County

· Tazewell County

· Warren County

· Washington County

New Census Dates for Service-based and Transitory Locations Enumeration

The timeline for most field operations for the 2020 Census have been extended in light of the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

This week the Census Bureau announced the new dates for service-based and transitory locations enumeration, the operations in which they count individuals experiencing homelessness. This count will take place over a three day period on September 22, 23 and 24 and will follow public health guidelines. More information is included below.

This notice is to make service providers aware of these plans, especially food panties, shelters and other locations where the Census Bureau will be partnering to conduct the count.

Any and all outreach to the communities you serve would be so helpful as well – to let people know why the census is important, how it impacts their lives and their community, and how they can safely and easily respond.

Handouts and other outreach materials are available at 2020census.gov, which is also the Census self-response and information portal. Here are fliers geared toward people experiencing homelessness and for those living in group housing.

Western Virginia CoC Coordinator Job Vacancy

The Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority is seeking a qualified applicant for the Western Virginia Continuum of Care Coordinator.  The applicant will represent the Western CoC within a six-locality area, provide leadership and coordination for ending homelessness activities, lead and facilitate CoC meetings and initiatives. The coordinator in partnership with community stakeholders will lead and coordinate the resource development activities, assist in the education, training, and implementation of ending homelessness best practices to create a collective impact on reducing homelessness in the communities served.   

The successful applicant must be able to work independently, work with a diverse population; effectively use homeless management information software, web page management, and computer; apply federal, state, and local regulations; maintain confidentiality; and possess excellent written and verbal communication skills. Experience with homelessness services, Continuum of Care and basic familiarity with affordable housing and service needs of the most vulnerable is preferred. Valid Virginia Drivers’ License is required. Here is the full job description; please share with all qualified and interested parties.

Resumes or City of Harrisonburg’s employment application form should be sent to:

HRHA

P.O. Box 1071

Harrisonburg, VA 22803

ATTN: Executive Director

Equal Opportunity Employer

JMU 2020 Public Service Awards recognizes Shannon Porter

On Thursday, May 7th 2020, James Madison University’s Master’s of Public Administration program in the Department of Political Science held its annual Public Service Awards ceremony in which it honored Shannon Porter, Executive Director of Mercy House, with the Excellence in Public Service Award. The full announcement can be found below.

Mercy House is a state grantee within the Western Virginia Continuum of Care and has been an active partner within our CoC and the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County community. Congratulations, Mr. Porter!

Here is the full video recording of the ceremony:

Northern Shenandoah COVID-19 Rental Assistance and SBA Loans

Here are some resources from People Inc. that pertain to COVID-19 rental assistance and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans:

These programs are available for the People Inc. service area, which includes Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, and Warren Counties. Contact information is on the flyers; please forward to anyone who could benefit.

Northern Outreach Request for Proposal

The Western Virginia CoC is now soliciting applications for street outreach in the Northern region of the CoC. All eligible organizations are welcome and encouraged to apply. Applications can be found here and for information on the Outreach requirements, see pages 17-18 of the DHCD HSNH 2018-2020 Funding Guidelines.

All submissions are due by Friday, August 16.

Please send applications and address any question to:

Emily McCarty, Community Development & Grant Coordinator
Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority
Email: EMcCarty@harrisonburgrha.com | Phone number: 540.437.9545