IMPACT

Activist Who Fought Housing Discrimination Is Now Homeless, And The Internet Is Here To Help

02/18/2015 07:12 pm ET | Updated Feb 20, 2015

A woman who fought tirelessly to ensure everyone has equal access to housing now has nowhere to call home.

Dorothy "Dottie” Mulkey's house was filled with donations to charitable organizations when it caught fire on Dec. 14. Mulkey -- the plaintiff in the Reitman vs. Mulkey case that challenged and defeated housing discrimination in California in 1967 -- was at church at the time of the fire, and lost most of the belongings inside her Santa Ana, California, home.

Now, a Crowdrise page focused on helping Mulkey get back into her house by raising $20,000 is garnering support from those hoping to help. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than $2,100 had been raised.

Mulkey, 74, told the Orange County Register her home insurance had expired last August, and she'd wanted to wait and research new policies before buying a new one. She planned on getting new insurance for the home -- a three-bedroom she purchased in 1970 -- by the end of the year.

The fire didn’t wait for that,” Mulkey, who has been staying at a friend's house, told the news outlet. “For 40 years I had paid insurance. When I needed it, it had lapsed.”

The fire had started due to an electrical malfunction involving a surge protector used to power Mulkey’s kitchen appliances. Smoke and water damage deemed the house uninhabitable.

During the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, segregated housing patterns were widespread throughout the U.S. housing market. Even while a growing number of black and Hispanic Americans fought and died in U.S. military operations in Vietnam, their families faced challenges finding homes for rent or purchase in certain residential areas because of their skin color.

In the landmark case of Reitman vs. Mulkey, Mulkey and her husband argued that Reitman refused to rent them an apartment because of their race. The case -- which went to the Supreme Court and was decided in favor of Mulkey and her husband -- set a legal precedent in California and helped end housing discrimination throughout the state.

The Crowdrise page for Mulkey was set up by Eli Reyna, who met Mulkey while working for the Orange County Human Relations Commission. He told the Orange County Register that he tried to find some sort of program that could help someone in Mulkey's situation, but there was nothing.

It was very frustrating," Reyna said. "So I just decided to make a video to raise some awareness and maybe help raise some money.”

Despite her circumstances, Mulkey -- who said she's fortunate to not have been at home during the fire because "it would have been devastating" -- told the Orange County Register she's keeping her head held high.

“I know I should be in despair, but I'm not because I was not in that burning house," Mukley said. “That gives me joy … The sun’s going to shine tomorrow, joy or no joy. I know this house is going to be restored. I know that, and for that reason I can't be down.”

Support Mulkey by visiting the Crowdrise page or using the widget below.

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