Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announces plans to introduce legislation that will make housing discrimination illegal.

When I was a little girl, I was told that I couldn’t go to the school in my neighborhood because of my race. A few years ago, in my 50s, I was told by multiple landlords in Baltimore County: “You can’t live here. We don’t take vouchers, even from U.S. veterans.”

Discrimination has moved from the color line to your source of income. It is appalling.

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I served honorably in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1975 to 1981. I married my husband, an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran, and we raised a child. I worked as a commercial truck driver and cared for my family. Later in life, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I had to leave work to become his primary caretaker until he died. After his death, I had a stroke. With no income and the impact of the stroke, I did not have money to afford housing, and I became homeless for 10 years.

Because of my service to this country, I received a special housing voucher several years ago for honorably discharged veterans called a VASH Voucher. I was told that this voucher would let me live where I wanted to, but that was very wrong.

Once you get your voucher, you only have a limited period of time to find a landlord who will take it. I also had to find an apartment without too many stairs because of my disability. I applied at over 20 locations in Baltimore County and paid 20 application fees, usually around $40 each. I presented myself each time with the hope that someone would look at me as a human being. I had no criminal record, and my credit was good. Yet each time I was rejected.

Landlords said: “We don’t take section 8” or “all our section 8 units are full.”

I wanted to live close to my family, but with the clock ticking on my voucher, the only place where I could find a landlord who would take my voucher was in Randallstown — miles away from my family. And even that apartment had a number of steps.

I listen now to people saying that they don’t want “those people” living in their neighborhoods or “I worked hard to live here; people need to work for a living.” I am appalled. My late husband and I served so that other people can live comfortably. I was good enough to serve my country but not good enough to live in your neighborhood.

People have no idea what it is like to be homeless. When I got my voucher, I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, I felt like a little girl again, being told I couldn’t go to a certain school.

I am not alone. Most people with vouchers in Baltimore County are veterans, seniors, or persons with disabilities. Many are wage earners who simply don’t make enough money to afford an apartment in this county and need a voucher to help them out. You still pay 30% of your income toward the rent when you have a voucher.

Baltimore County needs to wake up. Money is money. We banned the color line. Now it’s time to stop landlords from discriminating based on someone’s source of income.

I support a bill that has been introduced in Baltimore County that would stop landlords from discriminating based on someone’s “source of income.”

I am a U.S. veteran — I signed on the line to protect my fellow citizens, and I did so honorably. Honor the service of my fellow veterans and pass this bill.

Jill Williams (jillwilliams1717@gmail.com) is a U.S. veteran and former Baltimore County resident.

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