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Jacksonville Human Rights Commission Overwhelmed With Caseload

Ray Hollister

The Jacksonville organization that protects people from discrimination is struggling under an overwhelming caseload.

The Jacksonville Human Rights Commission lost three workers last year due to city budget cuts, and funding isn’t increasing this year.

Amy Pierce works at the Jacksonville Humane Society. She says the organization takes care of about 6,000 animals a year, and some people adopt those animals for medical reasons.

“We have people come through to adopt and they mention that they’re adopting an animal for a service purpose,” Pierce said.  “Could be they have an autistic child or something like that where they think it would benefit to have a dog. We do see that a lot.”

But not every landlord is jazzed to accommodate people who require an animal for emotional support. Human Rights Commission Executive Director Charlene Hill says she deals with a lot of that type of discrimination.

“We had a case recently where the organization had a no-pet policy, doesn’t matter, she has the required medical documentation to show she needs the animal,” Hill said. “You’re required to allow her to have it.”

Hill says right now, about 400 cases, involving housing, employment and public accommodation, need the commission’s attention. Having to release three employees last year took a toll.

“When we had more staff we may have had caseloads that were on an individual basis maybe an average of 30,” Hill said. “Now the average caseload is probably 50.”

And people facing discrimination are frustrated.

“They say well I submitted my questionnaire and it’s been 30 days since I’ve heard anything,” Hill said “Well, it could be 30 more; it could be 60 more [days].”

City Council budget hearings are scheduled to wrap up Friday. Hill says it’s not looking like the Human Rights Commission will get an increase in funding this year.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.