Sabrina Thompson, The Observer

Oregon has a history of housing discrimination, and the state has since put laws in place to help prevent it from happening. A display from the Fair Housing Council, titled “Anywhere but Here,” puts that history on view at Cook Memorial Public Library in the hopes of educating and informing people about what the state’s housing used to look like, and where it is today.

Aug. 20 will be the premiere day for the artwork for the 10-day stay, and a special reading that morning will tell those in attendance a story that may be familiar to some. The library agreed to host the event in the hopes that it would help educate and expose people to things they may not have known.

“The library is a marketplace of ideas,” the library’s interim director, Althea Bonebrake said.

“It’s about being able to change the mind-sets,” Community Action Program of East Central Oregon Moving Forward Case Manager Glenda Moyer said. “Just because people are of a different race or nationality or gender identity, they are not that different, and it won’t change or hurt the neighborhood.”

The display, which has been traveling across Oregon, details the history of housing discrimination in the state through seven illustrated panels. The panels show that one of the largest Ku Klux Klan groups per capita resided in Oregon in the early 20th century, and it was illegal for African Americans to live in the state. The exhibit also covers how some of the first laws to fight against such discrimination in Oregon were not enacted until the 1950s.

As late as the 1980s households with families were not legally protected against discrimination in Oregon. This meant landlords could deny housing based simply on the fact a tenant had children.

“We still see discrimination today. It’s just in different ways,” Moyer said.

She said that the discrimination occurring is more subtle today than it was before. Complaints are now more likely to be about discrimination based on the size of a family or on a disability rather than on race because landlords fear the potential liabilities caused by renting to families or those with disabilities, such as injury or damage to the units. According to Moyer, every year the Fair Housing Council of Oregon receives 2,000 complaints from all over Oregon, and most are in regard to being discriminated against based on disability.

The Fair Housing Laws are meant to protect everyone, from landlords to tenants, and include defining standards of practice and guidelines for how to avoid discrimination. It is illegal for landlords to discriminate based on race, nationality, gender, religion, disability, marital status, source of income, sexual identity or being a family. The laws also outline that landlords must treat applicants consistently and fairly in the application process and in tenancy.

According to Moyer, most discrimination by landlords occurs due to ignorance and a lack of education about the laws. The hope is that the “Anywhere but Here” display will educate landlords and tenants about these rules and their history.

The reading of “A Pig Moves In” by Claudia Fries will take place at 11 a.m. Aug. 20 at the library, with crafts and activities for children beforehand. The story is about a pig that is moving into a neighborhood and the other animals’ reactions to this. This reading is open to all ages.

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