Western & Southern sued for discrimination over Anna Louise Inn

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - While the legal battle between the Anna Louise Inn and Western and Southern Financial Group continues with no end in sight, some residents of the Inn have filed a federal lawsuit claiming their civil rights are being violated under the fair housing act.

"I feel that Western and Southern is picking on me," said Janet Johnson, a retiree.

Johnson has lived at the Anna Louise Inn for two years and she explains why she feels like she's being targeted by the insurance giant.

"Because I'm a woman....because I'm a Black woman...because I'm an old Black woman...and old Black woman with limited income," she said.

Robin Howard says she feels she and other residents are being forced out.

"We live here and we want to stay here," she said. "We don't want to be forced out because Western & Southern feels...because we are of lower income that we should not be in this area."

The lawsuit claims Western and Southern has publicly argued that the women of the Anna Louise Inn are in conflict with the area and the company has launched a campaign to drive them out by vilifying them and falsely accusing them of engaging in criminal activity.

Resident Beverly Chapman says it's a smear campaign.

"They want people to believe that we're all prostitutes.....or addiction problems," she said.

Rhonda Claiborne is an Iraq war veteran who says the inn provides a vital service.

"For just regular women that work, some don't work, some are in school, some need to be close to where they work. Then there's also a program for off the street women, you know that come here to get themselves together," said Claiborne.

In our commitment to balanced news we reached out to Western and Southern. They declined an on-camera interview but issued the following statement. "We believe the lawsuit is frivolous and without merit, and a distraction from the real issue, which is finding a win-win situation for all involved - the Anna Louise Inn residents, the city of Cincinnati and the taxpayers. Our interest in the property is about encouraging economic development in this end of downtown for decades to come - while ALSO preserving Cincinnati Union Bethel's programs. Our proposal would do both."

Western and Southern has offered to buy the property for $3 million, and help relocate the women's program, but Cincinnati Union Bethel says it's not for sale.

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