Jo Larsen of Brainerd understands the feelings college students have when they leave their homes and move out on their own ready to tackle the world.
Larsen has been the assistant property manager at The Pines Apartments on Campus Drive for the past five years. Larsen is proud of what the apartment complex offers to students and said her mission is to offer quality housing while the students grow and obtain an education.
The Pines offers a student complex that houses 100 students and another building complex for families. Larsen said a majority of the renters in the family complex attend school.
Larsen said they do not tolerate discrimination at The Pines.
"We don't see colors here," she said. "We have a mix of students."
Larsen, who has worked in the housing industry for 20 years, said, "I do believe there are people in the rental industry who discriminate in Brainerd. I've seen it, but I won't say where it happens."
The Pines has policies to keep students safe from fighting, discrimination or any problems that arise. It has security monitors and the Brainerd Police Department has keys to the complex and officers can come into the building at any time.
"We have not had many problems," said Larsen. "It's pretty boring here. Kids this age are pretty mature."
Joyce Witt, Brainerd, has been renting units in the Brainerd lakes area for 15 years. Witt said people of all ethnic backgrounds are given equal opportunity to rent her units. People who are interested have to fill out the same application, which includes bank references. Witt said she does a criminal background check on all applicants, regardless of race.
"We check our rentals closely because there are so many drugs in this area," she said.
Keith Wikstrom, Lake Shore, has owned 16 rental units in Baxter since 1998 and has not had problems with race, but sees a lot of renters who do not pay their rent.
He said he has only rented to one black couple. However, several people of color have applied for the rental units, but ended up deciding they didn't want the unit.
"Our units are higher-priced and we weed out a lot of lower-income people who are looking," said Wikstrom. "We are an equal opportunity apartment complex."
Some Central Lakes College minority students believe they were discriminated against in housing. Louis Roseman and DeeJay Mayfield, who are now roommates, said they had problems with an apartment in Brainerd. They do not live in the apartment anymore.
They said people in a unit down the hallway from them had parties a lot and they were accused of making the noise.
"The manager would sit there and listen at the door, but he never came in," said Roseman.
"The only noise we ever made was when we would play video games," said Mayfield. "The manager confronted me later and said, 'One more warning and you are out.'
"I felt like we were being stalked (by the manager)."
When asked if the students felt they were being discriminated against because of their race or were being watched simply because they were college students, they said, "A little of both."
Another student, Shailee Patel of Staples, also attends the campus in Brainerd. She currently lives at home with her parents, but said she would like to move out next school year. She said she has heard from a lot of students about certain apartments that discriminate. She said she will not attempt to rent those apartments.
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