August 10, 2016. Governor Baker has signed resolve S1984, thus creating a landmark commission to protect elderly and disabled victims from harassing and bullying. Passage of this resolve demonstrates again the leadership and compassion of our legislators and of Governor Baker and their responsive concern for the well-being and rights of all citizens. It is a victory for citizen activism and democracy.
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Impact of bullying on elderly and disabled
Bullying is a contagious social disease that flourishes in the absence of a legitimate social order, creates a toxic environment and an unhealthy community life, all while causing psychological and physical harm to victims.
About one quarter of elderly people living independently are the victims of bullying. Bullying targets elderly and disabled people, including those living in public or subsidized multifamily apartment housing, but it is also a problem in many upscale residential settings.
The business case for action
Preventing and remedying harassment, a form of bullying, may not seem like the legal responsibility of the housing provider—but it is, according to state and federal authorities. On October 21, 2015, HUD proposed a rule that would formalise and define harassment under the Fair Housing Act. This rule would recognize and protect important rights of persons covered by the Fair Housing Act in their home. And the rule would impose clear responsibility on the housing provider for any acts of harassment. In reaction to the proposed rule, many providers of housing—public, private, subsidized, affordable, or market rate—rushed to decry government intervention, reject any responsibility for tenant relations, and set their legal teams to work. (1) But while there may be risk of legal exposure sufficient to motivate action by landlords, there are other excellent business reasons to prevent bullying and harassment.
Bullying at Wuthering Heights
When Margaret, at fifty-three years of age, moved in to Wuthering Heights in late 2010, she had been the victim of domestic abuse, had a serious and painful back injury which severely limited her mobility, and had for some time been without adequate food and nourishment. At Wuthering Heights she was determined to regain her autonomy and independence despite these challenges. Instead, she was bullied, evicted, and made homeless.
When we buy a car, we read objective reports and compare prices, when we buy a house, we have a professional inspect to be sure it is safe and sound. But when we choose what may be our last home, if we do not use care, we may move into a terrible, unsafe situation and then find ourselves with no way out.
I write today about our “Pariah Street,” where 30 low-income families are changing their lives.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Our bill has a new number, S1984, and is formally sponsored by the Joint Committee on Housing. It has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Rules which has the power to schedule a bill for consideration by the senate. Our bill has strong support in both branches and we are hopeful of early passage, although it could be passed any time before the end of the session in early January, 2016.
The Joint Committee on Housing of the Massachusetts Legislature (the General Court) has amended and now sponsors our bill to create a legislative study commission, S1984. The commission will study ways to prevent bullying of tenants in public and subsidized multi-family housing.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We have a special reason to celebrate in Massachusetts. Our testimony on S709. the bill to create a commission on bullying, will be heard by the Joint Committee on Housing on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the state house on Beacon Hill in Boston; in room B1 from 10:00 AM. Our sponsoring legislators worked with us to make sure our bill would be considered in this first session of the committee.
Now we need your help to convince the members of the committee to favor our cause, and to approve the bill, so we can stop the bullying.