Fight Hate: The Response Network
Responding to housing-related hate activity requires collaboration among a network of community institutions and individuals. The response must be locally driven, proactive, comprehensive, and sustained through follow-up.
1. Be Proactive - Examine Your Options Now!
Taking action now may prevent hate activity in your neighborhood as well as equip your community with a plan of action during a crisis. A good place to start is to identify who in your community is actively involved in hate crime awareness and prevention. A hate crime task force may already exist in your area, enabling you to tap an ongoing resource for your community. Otherwise, the best place to start is to form a committee or task force that will lead to the development of a community response network. Initial members should include:
- Law enforcement
- Victim services providers
- Local fair housing center
- Civil rights organizations
2. Develop A Network
An effective collaboration can best be achieved through what this guide refers to as a community response network-a network of advocates and service providers who bring their skills, knowledge, resources and commitment together to prevent and respond to housing-related hate activity. Members of the task force-law enforcement, victim service professionals, fair housing centers and civil rights organizations-should be the guiding force behind a response network and help coordinate efforts of key resources in the community, including:
- Religious leaders (interdenominational) and institutions
- Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and other Community-based organizations that are active on this issue, such as NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Local affiliates of the Naitonal Urban League
- School representatives
- Representatives from local real estate association or board
- Local businesses (e.g., locksmiths; hardware stores; home stores; car rental companies; childcare services; and the local real estate community)
3. Identify Your Community's Needs
Hate crimes can occur in any community, regardless of how much or how little tension exists. In that context, every community can benefit from a community network in place to respond to hate incidents. Answering the questions below will help your network define its role in the community.
- Does the make up of your community include people of diverse backgrounds?
- Has housing-related hate activity been reported in the past?
- Are there many complaints of housing discrimination in your community?
- Does the media report hate activity? If so, has the media presented past hate incidents factually and fairly?
- Are new groups of people moving into your community?
- Are people accepted in the community?
- Are real estate rental and sales professionals educated about fair housing laws and housing-related hate activity?
- Do children of diverse backgrounds play together?
- Is bullying prevalent in local schools?
- Is racist, anti-immigrant or anti-gay graffiti on walls or buildings in certain communities?
- Has racist, anti-immigrant or anti-gay literature been distributed in your community?
- How prevalent is racial segregation in your area?
Answers can be found by researching your local human rights/human relations commission, fair housing agency, various government and human service agencies, community and faith-based organizations, real estate boards, school boards and police department.
Finally, all communities across the country that receive federal or state Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding have, or should have, completed an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI). The AI must be on file with the local office of housing and community development. The National Fair Housing Alliance has collected AIs from 600 cities across the country. Call 866-222-FAIR to find out if your community has completed and filed an AI. If your community's AI is incomplete, meet with political leaders and request that the AI be amended to include issues of hate activity.
4. Identify Your Assets
Next, conduct a scan of available hate prevention and response resources in your community. You can start by answering the following questions:
- Are there local organizations whose purpose is to prevent and respond to housing-related and other hate activity?
- Are there youth, arts or sports programs in place to provide opportunities for young people from different cultures to interact?
- Are there opportunities for religious exchange where, for example, Jews, Protestants, Muslims, or Catholics can get together to learn about each other's faiths?
- Does your human relations commission offer diversity workshops and conflict resolution/mediation classes?
- Do local radio and television stations air public service announcements and support programs that promote acceptance and interaction with people of different backgrounds?
- Do local schools teach diversity curricula or have social clubs dedicated to promoting cultural exchange?
- Are there social justice programs in local religious institutions?
Even if a community has organizations that are actively involved in hate crime awareness and prevention, most do not have a comprehensive approach that responds specifically to neighborhood-based hate activity. Oftentimes, there is little coordination between the police and advocacy groups that have the expertise to help enforce fair housing laws and spearhead community reconciliation after a housing-related hate incident is committed. In many instances, there is no comprehensive network in place to coordinate the resources-housing and legal assistance, financial and home repair service, counseling, mediation-victims and the broader community need to successfully recover from harm caused by a housing-related hate crime.
5. Define Your Network's Role
Whatever protocols, resources, and services are currently in place, there is very likely some gap in services. For example, your community may not have a housing-related hate response guide that it distributes to every new resident. The network could develop one and work with the local real estate community, businesses and other community institutions to disseminate it to every new resident. Additional questions the network should consider when defining its role include:
- Will the role of the response network be to compile and disseminate resources for housing-related hate response?
- Will the network assume an advisory role to the police or serve as a "watch-dog" to help ensure adequate response to housing-related hate activity?
- Will it train service providers (including police, real estate agents and community groups) to better respond to housing-related hate activity?
- Will it educate public officials and the media about the effects of housing-related hate activity?
- Will its role be one of providing direct service and coordinating resources?
6. Define Network Member Roles and Responsibilities
After defining the role and mission of the network, identify specific expectations and tasks for each member organization. Doing so will establish a basis for discussion during the network's planning phase about each member's role in taking preventive measures as well as creating and implementing a response protocol.
Every individual can play a part in preventing and responding to hate crimes. Anyone can speak out against hate and intolerance at any time. Anyone can reach out to a neighbor in need. Anyone can send a card or make a gesture of empathy and support to someone who has been victimized by hate. Anyone can work to make their own neighborhood a welcoming place, and to create a spirit of openness to diversity in the community.
The Police and the Justice System
The police are usually the first to hear about and arrive on the scene of housing-related hate activity. Whether or not your local police department elects to join the network, it should at least designate a community contact who would alert the network's first point-of-contact of a neighborhood-based hate crime. The police point-of-contact should also develop relationships with the local fair housing organization and advocacy organizations, victim service providers, and representatives from the justice system. The network should establish a good working relationship with the police and offer useful resources, such as training or victim services, which complement the police department's current efforts. A sensitized and engaged police department can help facilitate a victim's cooperation with the justice system, assist with the healing process, and promote law enforcement's credibility within the community. By positioning itself as a viable resource to the police, the network will be alerted to growing tensions or housing-related hate activity in the community and be able to offer early intervention. The network should educate the local bar; federal, state and city prosecutors; and judges about the provisions of federal and state fair housing laws regarding housing related hate activity. This will help guarantee effective prosecution and sentencing for hate crimes and other housing-related hate activity.
The Fair Housing Center
Fair housing center staff have relationships with private attorneys and state and federal agencies responsible for enforcing fair housing laws and will provide assistance to victims of harassment, coercion, or intimidation. The fair housing agency can refer victims to local attorneys who will represent them in civil lawsuits filed against the perpetrators of housing-related hate activity. As the key private sector organization responsible for educating the public about enforcement of federal, state and local fair housing laws, your local, private, non-profit fair housing agency is a natural catalyst in preparing for and organizing a community response to housing-related hate crimes and community tensions.
Victim Service Providers
Because of the trauma that victims of hate and bias-motivated crimes experience, victim service providers are critical to any response protocol. The network should always include a victim service provider-a social worker, counselor or other professional experienced with hate activity response-to coordinate immediate care and assistance including psychological counseling and other advocacy.
Offender Rehabilitation Services
Rehabilitating offenders is an important provision of a comprehensive network for the prevention of hate activity. A local program might involve youth offenders in special exchange programs that provide an opportunity for meaningful interaction with people of different backgrounds. The program can include bringing in "reformed" offenders to speak to youth communities where tensions are high and youth are at risk of becoming hate offenders.
Because churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship are considered sacred places, they can serve as places of healing and reconciliation. Religion also holds powerful moral sway for community members and leaders alike. For these reasons, the faith community is an important component of an effective network.
The network can work with the local school system, including public and private schools, community colleges, and universities to develop and implement on-campus hate response protocols. The network can also work to promote conflict resolution and educational modules that help students recognize hate and give them the tools to intervene on behalf of a victim. Finally, because schools are such an integral part of any community, the educational community can model effective ways to help reconcile the community after a hate incident.
Local businesses can use their resources and influence to augment the work of the response network. The real estate community is particularly important as they have a vested interest in promoting and maintaining a stable community. They also have legal and ethical obligations to promote fair and open housing. Finally, the real estate community has public and political credibility that it can use to help send the message that housing-related hate activity will not be tolerated in the community. Beyond the real estate community, local businesses can contribute funds or resources to a victim remediation program to help victims make repairs after a housing-related hate crime. This may include helping to install new locks in a home, replacing broken glass, painting over graffiti, replanting a torn-up lawn, or donating staff time to assist with these tasks.
Local community organizations can maximize the capacity of the network to respond to housing-related hate activity, by helping to ensure the incident is communicated accurately and rumors are dispelled. An op-ed in the newspaper presenting the network and signed by as many community organizers as possible who represent the community is a powerful statement.
Given its power within the community and the region at large-and considering the belief systems of so many individuals-the media is critical to the success of your response network. If the media coverage is sensationalized or insensitive, it could easily increase, rather than ease, community tensions. But an educated media is more likely to be sensitive, fair, and factual in its reporting of hate activity. An educated reporter makes a great ally, and the way he/she reports a story can contribute greatly to the victim and the community's healing. A media network member could initiate an education program among print, radio, and television staff about effective coverage of hate activity. In addition, the media could air PSAs and positively advertise the network's activities throughout the community.
7. The Three Golden Rules
Networks will have a wide range of activity. Regardless of the role the network chooses to play in the community's response to housing-related hate, it should always:
- Collaborate with local law enforcement. A central resource for further support is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), listed at the back of this handbook, as well as DOJ, the state attorney's office, or your local elected representatives.
- Interact with any existing structure or protocol for hate crime response that already exists in your community.
- Remember to focus on victim healing and reconciliation.