Farmworker Communities in Florida Focus on Fair Housing

[Photo 1: View of one side of the room, showing about 20 attendees seated behind conference tables listening to the speaker] Farmworkers, parent liaisons, and site directors from RCMA's child care centers and schools across Florida listen attentively to the fair housing message.

[Photo 2: Speaker standing among the audience and addressing the group]
Migdalia Figueroa, with Bay Area Legal Services, addresses the group.

[Photo 3: Three people side-by-side, posing for the picture] Chaplain Celerin, Migdalia Figueroa, and Ismelda Garcia of Bay Area Legal Services were on hand to answer every question.

Agriculture is second only to tourism in importance and impact to Florida's economy. More than 44,000 commercial growers employ several hundred thousand migrant and seasonal farmworkers each year.

After California and Texas, Florida ranks third in providing a home for our nation's farmworkers. But, housing conditions for farmworkers there are comparatively the most substandard and overcrowded in the nation. Unfair housing practices come with it, while too little has been done to raise awareness and improve things.

Redland Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) is the largest nonprofit provider of childcare and Migrant Head Start services in Florida. Last fall, they identified a real need within farmworker communities to recognize housing discrimination, learn more about fair housing laws, and understand the complaint process. So, HUD's Migrant/Farmworker Specialist for Florida, Chris Roberts, began plans to bring the fair housing message to them.

HUD partnered with the City of Tampa and Bay Area Legal Services to hold a fair housing forum on April 21, 2004, at RCMA's regional office in Ruskin, Hillsborough County, Florida.

Over 50 people attended--farmworkers and members of RCMA's Policy Council, including parent liaisons and site directors from each of their child care centers and schools across Florida. Maritza Betancourt, Senior Civil Rights Investigator/Fair Housing Coordinator with the City of Tampa, explained the fine points of the fair housing laws and briefly addressed the complaint process. Migdalia Figueroa, Attorney at Law with Bay Area Legal Services, explained all the services her office provides and how it partners with HUD on fair housing outreach and investigations.

A lively question and answer session took the program into overtime. Additional information about legal aid in Florida was requested for each of the RCMA centers in Florida. HUD and its partners will continue to work among this underserved population, to ensure the fair housing laws work for everyone.

If you are working to help improve housing conditions for farmworkers or farmworker communities in Florida, feel free to browse our toolkit for information and additional resources that may assist you in accomplishing your mission.

Content Archived: April 15, 2011