Housing discrimination rears its ugly head

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor,

At approximately 5’4, 120 pounds, Constance Bailey has lived the life many could only dream about. She is a graduate from the University of South Florida with a degree in education. She utilized her degree to begin her second career in elementary education.

Bailey is a retired Pinellas County School teacher who retired after 24 years of service:  13 years were spent at Seminole Elementary and 11 years at Sawgrass Lake Elementary.

It is the first half of her career that most would find intriguing. Even though Bailey is small in stature, she is a giant in might. She served five years in the United States Army from 1973-78!  Sadly, she suffered some health challenges, but was rewarded 100 percent service connected disability.

After raising her two children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, at the age of 62 all Bailey wants to do is spend her time sitting on the patio of her waterfront home observing the dolphins play and simply enjoying a peace of mind.  Sadly, in spite of her being conscientious about paying her rent on time and in some instances in advance, the Waterside Townhomes management team has notified her that they will not renew her lease.

By Dec. 1, Mrs. Bailey is expected to leave a home she has come to enjoy.

Approximately two weeks after being elected president of the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP, Area Director, Pat Spencer began forwarding discrimination complaints received by the Hillsborough NAACP branch to me as the president elect! One of those complaints was from Bailey.  Scared and frantic, she pleaded with the NAACP to “help her.”

Bailey believes she is being discriminated against because she is an African-American female who is also elderly and disabled. She has had to endure harassment from dead fish being thrown on her patio, to receiving citations about her car being pulled too far back on the sidewalk, to notices about her music being too loud.

While there is a process in proving a case of housing and elderly/disabled discrimination, the NAACP’s 1st Vice President, Pastor Rob Harrison, and I can certainly attest to the demeaning manner in which the management team treated us while accompanying Bailey to receive a copy of the notice previously sent to her, advising her that her lease would not be renewed.

The very afternoon that Pastor Harrison conducted his follow-up interview with the management team, they placed another note on her door stating that her music was too loud. She also found a container of water on her patio.

I requested permission from Bailey to tell her story because she serves as a poster child for why the NAACP exists and why it is even more relevant today. Social injustices exist regardless of one’s educational attainment or one’s professional background, even if the one whose rights could potentially have been violated has served the very country that the owners of the Waterside Townhomes call their homes.

From the time I met Ms. Bailey on the phone, she has served as a constant reminder of why I am proud to serve as the president of the NAACP and why I know that if this branch is to attempt to make an impact in the lives of people like Ms. Bailey, this community has no time to waste in petty squabbles and temper tantrums with adults who want to make this work about them!

It is my hopes that Ms. Bailey’s story will serve as a reminder to those that are able-bodied and minded. There is simply no more time for excuses!

~ Maria L. Scruggs

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