Three Honored at SSHC’s 33rd Annual Dinner

Jerome Hoskins and son

Jerome Hoskins, here with his son Donovan, was one of three honored at the South Suburban Housing Center’s 33rd Annual Dinner Friday. (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Matteson, IL—(ENEWSPF) — The South Suburban Housing Center held its 33rd Annual Dinner Meeting Friday evening. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Federal Fair Housing Act, April 4 was also the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Three individuals were honored by the SSHC: U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Joseph M. Martin, and Jerome Hoskins.

Senator Durbin was unable to attend the dinner, in Pennsylvania campaigning for Senator Barack Obama and sent a video statement thanking the SSHC for the honor. He was cited by the SSHC for his efforts in championing the causes of strengthening fair housing enforcement programs through his sponsorship and introduction of the Housing Fairness Act of 2007. That legislation proposes to significantly increase funding for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP), the federal source supporting local fair housing activities, like those operated by SSHC, nationwide.

Joe Martin has been the Executive Director of Diversity Inc. for the last 14 years. Diversity Inc. is the intergovernmental association of 18 south Chicago region municipalities dedicated to fostering racial, ethnic and cultural diversity. Prior to that, he had been on the staffs of three different south suburban municipalities. In Chicago Heights he served as Community Development Planner. In Hazel Crest and Country Club Hills he served as Director of Community Relations, and as the Village Manager of Hazel Crest. He was also a founding board member of Housing Choice Partners of Illinois, the mobility counseling agency assisting Section 8 families throughout the metro area.

Jerome Hoskins, an African American resident of Homewood, won a $25,000 settlement last month in a lawsuit that alleged racial discrimination violations of the Fair Housing Act against real estate agent Michele Beckers, her firm ReMax 10 of Homer Glen, and the sellers of a Homewood single family residence listed by Beckers.

According to the SSHC, The federal complaint alleged that Mr. Hoskin’s contract to purchase the Homewood residence of Betty Justich, an elderly white woman, was accepted by her on July 19, 2006. A day later, her real estate agent notified Hoskin’s agent that she was terminating the contract. On July 20, 2006, Justich entered into a sales contract with a young white couple. Also alleged was that two adult daughters of Justich were present when the home was first shown to Hoskins and when it was later shown to the white couple. While Justich’s daughters did not speak to Hoskins, one of her daughters allegedly told the white couple that she was sure her mother would want to sell the house to them before anyone else.

Betty Justich died in December 2006. The subsequent lawsuit was brought against the trust that title to the residence was transferred to, with one of her daughters, Lynn Glens, serving as trustee, just prior to her death.

The complaint alleged that the white couple had made an initial offer to purchase the property that was approximately $9,000 less than the offer Hoskins submitted to Justich, and that after she accepted Hoskins offer, she continued to entertain a subsequent offer from the white couple that was $3,100 more than the contract entered with Hoskins. The complaint goes on to allege that Hoskins was never notified that any other offers were being made, or given an opportunity to modify his offer on the property, prior to being notified that his contract was being terminated.

Jerome Hoskins was looking to purchase a home in Homewood to get his seven year old son enrolled before school began in the fall of 2006. A Desert Storm veteran, he eventually moved to Homewood in October 2006 after purchasing another property. He sought assistance from the South Suburban Housing Center. SSHC had been investigating this matter since September 2006 and assisted Hoskins in filing a fair housing complaint with HUD prior to the filing of the federal lawsuit.

John Petruszak, Executive Director of the SSHC, expressed his reaction to the settlement, “It is difficult to understand how a case like this happens today in a diverse community, sadly pointing out the need for fair housing vigilance throughout our area, and not just in communities that are perceived to be closed to African Americans and other classes who have been historically victimized by discrimination.”