TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Barbara Hartman says when living with chronic pain, her saving grace is the fact her designated parking spot is just steps from her apartment. However, that wasn't always the case.
She first went to her complex manager to request a handicapped spot in December of 2016.
"She at first said I need to get a note from my doctor even though i already have a handicap placard in my car," said Hartman.
She got the note anyway, but several weeks later ... still nothing. So Hartman called the Toledo Fair Housing Center, and they contacted the manager. Fast forward a few weeks, and a parking spot was finally marked as "handicapped". However, because it wasn't reserved, Hartman routinely found others in her space.
"One of the people that parked there got into an actual altercation with me where it became full blown! And the police had to come out again," she recalled.
The only problem was the officers told Hartman they couldn't ticket the drivers unless the owner of the property requested it. Frustrated, Hartman turned to the Fair Housing Center again.
Months later - Hartman finally got a designated space, and the manager even sent notices to all tenants stating it would be a violation of their leases if they parked in that spot. Hartman also says, since her issue was resolved, other tenants have been able to secure handicapped spots with no trouble at all.
The Fair Housing Center's President and CEO considers that a success.
"This happens every day in Northwest Ohio, unfortunately," explained Michael Marsh. "Most people think of fair housing as a racial issue .... but disability again has surpassed it to become the largest base for fair housing complaints locally and nationally."
Marsh's "small but mighty" team of 10 employees tackles about 150 complaints per year, and most of those are resolved out of court, via phone calls and letters.
"Most of the time, respondents in our cases that are being accused of discrimination will plead ignorance," Marsh said. "I always use the example: if you open up a restaurant, the health department is going to inspect you and you better know what temperature to serve the chicken."
Marsh says, often, residents are hesitant to report discrimination for fear of being humiliated or being targeted. However, no matter how long the process takes, the non-profit's services are always free and confidential, and clients are legally protected against any sort of retaliation.
To learn more about the Fair Housing Center or how to file a complaint, click the link.