The organization now known as H.O.M.E. was started by a small group of concerned citizens, both white and black. The first meeting was held in the Council of Churches building located at 1272 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, New York. The first and original name given to the organization was, “Niagara Frontier Council for Freedom of Choice in Housing.” This first meeting of the organization was held in the year 1963. The name of the organization was later changed to H.O.M.E.
The need for the organization was very great because on the Niagara Frontier many ethnic groups were involuntarily restricted to certain neighborhoods. Members of these groups, particularly non-whites, found it impossible to move to other areas despite economic qualifications. For example in 1963, out of 177 census tracts in Erie County, 86% of the Black population resided in 11 contiguous tracts in Buffalo.
The original purpose of the organization was to assist minority group persons in finding suitable housing in areas of their choice, consistent with their ability to pay, and to encourage members of established communities in stabilizing their neighborhoods on a basis of good-will unlimited by considerations of race, religion or national origin.
The meeting place of H.O.M.E. moved from the Council of Churches building to 72 North Parade, Buffalo. The Quakers owned the building and permitted H.O.M.E. members to meet there without charge. The organization now has wide representation in the community from the major religious faiths, civic and cultural groups, various community organizations and many individuals.
The original belief was that every person has the moral right to build, buy or rent a home anywhere without restrictions which are based on race, religion, or national origin.The meeting places of H.O.M.E. have changed several times over the years from 72 North Parade to different churches. The organization has changed from a host of voluntary workers carrying out the work, to a staff at the present time of three persons now located at 1490 Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, assisted by volunteers.
H.O.M.E.’s efforts in fair hosing enforcement have covered the gamut of incidents from discrimination in the sale, rental, financing or brokerage of housing to harassment of housing occupants. Violations are investigated, tested and documented by H.O.M.E. volunteers and then referred to the appropriate agency for action. H.O.M.E.’s efforts in the enforcement of fair housing laws have resulted in significantly reducing overt acts of discrimination by brokers in Western New York.
Over the years H.O.M.E. has referred some victims to the State Division of Human Rights and some to volunteer attorneys who, in appropriate cases institute court action for temporary restraining orders, preliminary and permanent injunctions and damages. As a result, approx. 20 federal court actions have been instituted under Title VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act. In one recent case a Black woman who was denied the opportunity to rent an apartment received a $700 settlement. In another, the judge ruled that the 1866 Civil Rights Act allowed the court to pursue cases of racial discrimination in owner-occupied two-family dwellings.