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Empowerment Against the Powerful

When Mustapha walked into the New American Consortium office (called by most of our clients and partners “the WE center”) he looked upset. He walked right up to me and said with confidence, “I need your help with housing, they are discriminating against me.” This caught my attention right away. I asked him what was going on. He explained that he lived in a basement apartment, and it was flooded beyond immediate repair.

(Photo Illustration of flooding in a resident's home by Wix Media)

He was asked to move to a different building, pay a more expensive rent month to month, even though he already had a lease. He mentioned that he felt this was not fair. He added that the attitude of the office managers was negative and pushy. We told him that was not fair, and we would call him back with advice from the fair housing office. In the meantime, Mustapha called the regional office for the building management company to explain the situation and complained about it.

(Photo Illustration of paperwork by Wix Media)

He came back to our office, we mentioned that fair housing said that the situation doesn’t sound fair. It would have to be proven that he is treated this way based on race or language/ culture for his case to qualify as discrimination. He said he did not want to pursue that route. He asked for one of us in the office to go with him and help him renegotiate their offer.

Our social worker and I drove with Mustapha to the management office. We sat with him while he explained that the regional office provided him with an alternative offer where his lease stays as is, he just must move apartments nearby. The office managers helped him fill out an updated lease, sign and received the keys. We were only there for moral support and to ask questions to clarify that this was an agreement to keep his lease agreement.

(Calming photo Illustration courtesy of Wix Media)

Once we walked out of that office with his new keys, we went to see the apartment. He had a big smile on his face and thanked us for being there with him. This story stays with me because all Mustapha wanted was someone to support him in making his case. Our mere presence and belief of his story, empowered Mustapha to get the outcome he thought was fairer.

Written by Ibtissem Belmihoub

New American Consortium Program Coordinator



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