ABOUT

The mission of the Stop Bullying Coalition includes advocacy, research, and education to empower tenants of public and subsidized housing for the elderly and disabled. We seek to stop bullying, to understand the social factors that enable or inhibit bullying, and to discover ways to build healthy community life. We address the safety and public health issues presented by the COVID-19 epidemic as well as the cultural and social issues leading to  prejudice that impacts on tenants of public/subsidized housing.

There are 92,000 residents in 1,400 public housing and subsidized developments in Massachusetts. Our goals are to empower residents of multifamily housing, including elderly and people living with disability; to assure protection from bullying and mobbing; to hold landlords accountable for assuring peaceful enjoyment; to educate the public, legislators, landlords, managers, and tenants; to undertake research and publications in support of those goals; and to advocate for legislative remedies.

We partner with individuals, organizations, agencies, and legislators to learn and work together towards our common goal of enhancing the lives of elderly and disabled persons. Partnership in our coalition is flexible and based on common goals in specific situations.

Two housing tenants, Jerry Halberstadt and Bonny Zeh, one elderly and one living with disability, learned by experience that there was no agency or legal remedy that would protect a tenant from bullying, and no way to get a provider of housing to intervene. That was the motivation for creating the Coalition in 2012.

Legislative advocacy

We decided to seek a legislative remedy. Therefore, Halberstadt drafted a bill to protect tenants from bullying and submitted it "by right" to Senator Joan Lovely.

We testified before the Joint Committee on Housing, but learned that the bill would not get out of committee. However, Representatives Brad Hill and the chairs of the Joint Committee, Representative Kevin Honan and Senator Jamie Eldridge, urged that Halberstadt should revise his bill as a petition to create a commission. However, that bill did not make it into law in that session.

To advance that legislation for creating a commission, Senator Lovely sponsored it in the next legislative session. We worked with two prominent tenants' rights groups, the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants and the Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants; the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, the Resident Advisory Board of the BHA, and numerous elderly and disabled tenants. We enjoyed support from the Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) and managers of housing programs. Together, we advocated and testified before the Joint Committee on Housing, and our bill to create the first Commission on Bullying in the nation was passed. Commission to Study Ways to Prevent Bullying of Tenants in Public and Subsidized Multi-Family Housing, pursuant to Chapter 2 of the Resolves of 2016.

Governor Baker appointed Jerry Halberstadt to represent the Stop Bullying Coalition as commissioner on the Commission on Bullying from 2016-2017. With extensive support from tenants and close collaboration with Susan Bonner, Legislative Chair of the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants, Halberstadt led Commission efforts to design and administer a landmark survey of bullying in housing in the Commonwealth, as well as an extensive review of the realities and challenges facing victims of bullying who are unable to get any relief. Halberstadt contributed to and supported the official consensus report of the Commission, and also filed a minority report focused on actually addressing the needs of tenants; both reports were filed at the end of 2017.

In 2019 two bullying bills were filed on Beacon Hill; the consensus report led to identical bills supported by Senator Lovely and Representative Honan; and our bill to create an ombuds office was presented by a bipartisan group of sponsors, including Senator Joan Lovely and Representative Brad Hill.

Education & research

  • Provide information and support by email, newsletters, by articles and listings of resources compiled by Bonny Zeh, reaching an international audience.
  • Ongoing educational workshops, research, and support for organizational and advocacy work by tenants in Salem, Lowell, Boston Housing Authority (BHA), and other communities.
  • With Mikhail Kazachkov, a renowned human rights campaigner, producing a documentary film on bullying for Salem Access TV, including a transition in Salem public housing.
  • Continuing to seek information on the difference between toxic housing developments and healthy ones, and on ways to effect change; including by publishing reports on best practices.
  • Developing perspectives on a variety of conflict resolution and community building strategies.
  • We presented workshops for MAHT; Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council (2018---Halberstadt & MM Moore, Former Executive Director, ILCNSCA); National Workplace Bullying Coalition (2017).
  • Halberstadt did a guest presentation in February for law students of David C. Yamada, Professor of Law and Director, New Workplace Institute in his Law and Psychology Lab at Suffolk University Law School.
  • Supporting the efforts of Lynn Costello and Christin Shelton to establish the Lowell Anti-Bullying Coalition.
  • We participate in the annual Black Picnic in Salem.

Social activism

While we have made significant progress in creating awareness and in legislative advocacy, we have come to recognize that the economic, social, and cultural setting of people living in public/subsidized housing is linked to broader social issues.

We are therefore expanding our mission to include issues including health which impact our core customers, the 92,000 elderly and disabled tenants in 1,400 housing development in Massachusetts.

Public health and COVID-19

At this time, in June of 2020, the nation is still seeking to deal with the epidemic of COVID-19 which poses a significant threat to our people.

We participate in online meetings of housing administrators in order to learn about current issues in housing under the COVID-19 threat, and in order to share a tenant perspective. CHAPA hosts a series. The weekly online meetings of Affordable Senior Housing and COVID19 are hosted by Leading Age Massachusetts, CEDAC, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA), and MassHousing to discuss COVID19 areas of interest for those who manage affordable senior housing.  Recordings of meetings at Affordable Senior Housing and COVID-19. www.leadingagema.org/ashcalls We share the issues that are relevant to tenants online and in our newsletter.

Halberstadt researched the connections among Community Norms, Social Distancing, and Bullying in public housing. The issues in housing echo those reported daily on the national scene. The findings, base on several community cases, reveal the impact of strategies for developing trust and community norms to prevent bullying and enable compliance with public health protocols.

The Stop Bullying Coalition is advocating for legislation that will enable providers of housing, their staff, and tenants to work together on the basis of the best available information. See: http://stopbullyingcoalition.org/S2753 The Coalition has taken a stand in support of collecting and publishing public health information at the level of the housing development in order to have transparency that can enable rapid and effective measures to limit infection. We have advocated for such actions.

We see a potential for expanding our scope to a national organization; we are in touch with activists in several other states facing similar challenges.