Indio Seniors Sue City over Access to Senior Center

Indio Seniors Sue City over Access to Senior Center

Max Rodriguez

A group of seniors is suing the City of Indio alleging discrimination against them by staff at the city’s Senior Center after being denied full access to the facility.

There is nothing like spending time with friends for a group of senior men, they spend time together almost daily as they tease each other while playing a serious game of pool.

Their usual meet-up place has become the backyard of one of their friends but that is after many of them no longer feel welcomed at the Indio Senior Center.

Antonio Diaz is one of those friends who say the management of the center is too harsh.

Diaz said, “I do not feel welcomed because they do not respect us and they discriminate often.” He said he was yelled at by the supervisor of the center after he gave a thumbs-up and thumbs-down to one of his friends while doing activities in the game room. 

The group feels the senior center staff is unreasonably strict towards them because of their heritage.

The group’s lawyer, Rahul Sethi said it is a negative treatment that warrant’s a lawsuit.

Sethi said, “For a lack of a better word, the new management finds them quote on the quote ‘too Mexican,’.”

After many disagreements between the staff and the members, the game room became off-limits for good.

Jaime Barajas is a part of the group of friends and he was surprised when one day he arrived at the center with the doors of the game room shut closed.

Barajas said, “That it had become like a Cantina… and I was like what? that was a surprise because, in reality, that’s not the way I saw the game room, I treated it like a place to recreate and see my friends.” 

The group contacted city officials to voice concerns and even held demonstrations outside the Indio City Hall, ultimately they saw it as a matter for the court.

Sethi said, “Is it really a lawsuit about playing pool, billiards, it is about that but it is also about basic human dignity and how everyone should be treated.”

The lawsuit filed by the plaintiff Comite Latino against the City of Indio cites two complaints, violation of city and governmental code protecting full and equal accommodations in any business establishments regardless of national origin.

Sethi said this could easily be resolved outside of court, he said, “Just sit down and hammer out an agreement that works for everybody that is fair, just, and treats them equally and dignity, that’s what I’m most concern about.”

Meanwhile, the elderly men spend most mornings and afternoons at the home of Jesus Espinoza but he said the triple-digit heat is no place for men their age.

Espinoza said, “We celebrate our birthdays, we sing karaoke sing and have fun but it’s harsh during the summertime.”

The group’s attorney said the rules for the Senior Center are too subjective, especially when it comes to noise levels, he said clearer rules may help avoid future problems and expects to a legal response from the city soon, city staff has not yet responded to NBC Palm Springs request for comment.