During his second year at Yale Law School, Jay Readey ’94 SOM ’04 LAW ’04 and some of his fellow students decided to create DreamPioneers, Inc., a national forum for discussing racial integration in housing and schools. When he discussed the organization with a residential college seminar he taught last spring, he inspired several of his students to take the group to a new level.
Matthew Bloom ’05 and other veterans of Readey’s seminar, “Residential Racial Integration: Law, Policy, and Private Preferences,” founded the first campus chapter of DreamPioneers this semester.
Readey said his students seemed to take interest in the subject because it could have personal implications.
“People could relate it to their own lives in terms of where they have lived and gone to school,” he said.
The Yale College group met for the first time Monday night, and 10 to 12 people attended, Bloom said.
A model for future college chapters, the Yale group will plan projects with local organizations to promote racial integration in New Haven and surrounding communities, Bloom said.
Bloom began organizing the Yale chapter as part of a Dwight Hall fellowship last summer.
“I believe very strongly in living in a diverse community. Integration is a just, an ideal goal for a just society,” he said.
Anthony Powell ’05, who took Readey’s seminar and is now a member of DreamPioneers, said the group’s potential to impact the community appealed to him.
“This group can do a lot to get poor New Haven residents into better housing in suburbs or in downtown,” Powell said.
This year, the Yale College chapter plans to focus on housing and residential integration in New Haven. Members plan to work with New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc., and HOME, Inc..
HOME, Inc., provides assistance to low-income residents who are eligible for Section 8 housing vouchers, which subsidize rent for low-income families. Because they do not confine recipients to a specific housing project or location, Section 8 vouchers allow “mobility moves” away from cities, Bloom wrote in a paper for the seminar. The policy creates opportunities for greater integration of suburban residential areas, he wrote.
DreamPioneers also plans to work with the Connecticut Fair Housing Testing Center to eliminate racism on the part of landlords. Students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds pose as people interested in renting apartments, Bloom said. If the Fair Housing Testing Center believes the students are turned away because of their races, the students can testify in court cases against the landlords, he said.
Educating Yale students about current problems of residential segregation and encouraging action to promote integration is also a priority for the group, members said.
“Especially for students who are college students, it’s trying to make residential choices to benefit diversity,” DreamPioneers member Alexis DelVecchio ’06 said.
Although the Yale organization is the first of its kind, the national organization — for which the founders now serve as the board of directors — is planning to expand to other urban college campuses. Readey said DreamPioneers has already contacted students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., near Chicago, where three board members live.