The Department today filed a lawsuit against the former owner and managers of Homestead Mobile Home Village, a mobile home park in Gulfport, Miss., for violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against black tenants on the basis of race or color.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi charges that Edward and Barbara Hamilton, the former managers of the mobile home park, unjustly sought to evict a black couple and their five minor children who had moved there after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. According to the complaint, the Hamiltons attempted to evict the family and other black residents for allegedly violating the rules of the park, but did not attempt to evict white residents for as many or more violations. The complaint also alleges the Hamiltons harassed and intimidated black tenants. The suit names as a defendant Indigo Investments LLC, the owner of Homestead Mobile Home Park at the time the Hamiltons managed the park.
"No one should have to suffer harassing, unequal treatment from a landlord based on one’s race or color," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute any landlord who engages in racial discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act."
The lawsuit arose from a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by two black residents of Homestead. The complainants also sought assistance from the Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center, a private, non-profit fair housing organization which provided additional information to HUD. After investigating the complaint, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and after one of the respondents named in HUD’s charge elected to have the case heard in federal court, the case was referred to the Justice Department. The suit also alleges that the defendants’ conduct constitutes a pattern or practice of discrimination or a denial of rights to a group of persons.
"It’s hard enough for families recovering from catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina to put their lives back together, without also having to face housing discrimination," said John Trasvina, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD in partnership with the Department of Justice works to ensure there is no room for racial discrimination in a Mississippi mobile home park or anywhere else in the nation."
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ actions, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.
Individuals who may have information related to this lawsuit should contact the Justice Department at 601-965-4480 or toll free at 1-800-896-7743. Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. Visit the Civil Rights Division’s Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt for more information about the laws it enforces.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.