AHA Evicting Single Mothers Late on Rent, despite Hardships
(APN) BANKHEAD — Several families are being evicted from Bowen Homes public housing community, as early as Tuesday, October 02, 2007, after they have fallen behind in their rent, Atlanta Progressive News has learned, even though each of them has compelling stories as to why they’re facing economic hardships.
Moveover, if their testimony is correct, it appears Atlanta Housing Authority’s agent has been overcharging many of the families for several months, and in some cases, billing them for unexplained amounts.
The Bowen Homes resident association is aware of over 25 families who received the notices, Shirley Hightower, association President, told APN.
None of the families recall being able to speak with an Atlanta Housing Authority professional social worker regarding their circumstances, even though AHA Director Renee Glover promised in a letter to City Councilwoman Felicia Moore that a social worker would review each family’s situation for possible exemptions or extensions before being evicted.
“DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!” reads a flyer received by at least three of the families living in Bowen Homes, a copy of which was obtained by Atlanta Progressive News. The flyer shows a picture of a family’s belongings sitting out on the sidewalk. “EVICTION DEPARTMENT: If you don’t pay, you don’t stay,” says the letters on a truck in the picture.
Many of the women lost their jobs for one reason or another and have had difficulty finding new work, according to testimony of several mothers who spoke with Atlanta Progressive News during an emergency meeting called at Bowen Homes Saturday, September 29, 2007.
One resident lost her part-time income while attending school full-time, she said. Another resident had to quit her job due to health reasons. Another had to quit her job because she lost her day care for her two year old child, when the people taking care of her children got their own jobs. Others had “temp” jobs which ended. Still others had disputes with their employers over the exact reason for losing their jobs. One woman said she was only one month behind on her rent.
According to the lease agreements obtained by Atlanta Progressive News, rent for public housing residents is supposed to be based on 30% of their adjusted income, or a minimum of $125, whichever is higher.
The residents allege that the Lane Company, a private firm who manages several properties for AHA including Bowen Homes, did not decrease their rent back down to the $125 minimum, despite the fact that their income went down to $0.
Lease amendments related to the AHA work requirements obtained by APN show that residents are not considered to violate the requirements, unless they do so for reasons “within Resident’s or household member’s control.”
The eviction crisis highlights the vulnerability of this population to being pushed onto the private rental market. “When you’re out there, you can’t ask for a hardship exemption,” Hightower said.
When answering the eviction warrant in court, the residents do not get a chance to plead their side of the story, Hightower said.
“Judge Livingston calls in 45 people. He says you either work it out with the manager or you have seven days. Lane Company has their own lawyer downstairs, so when you appeal, he takes it out. The problem is, these residents go to court without a lawyer,” Hightower said.
Three of the individual stories are shared below, although APN collected stories from eight families. In addition to the women’s stories shared below, APN also interviewed Charmaine Prioleau, 4 children; Angela Norfleet, 4 children in the household; Cassandra Coffield, 7 children; Fredricka Bates, 7 children; and Tiffany Jackson, 1 child.
Sabrina Lowe started having health problems after she survived a fire in Hollywood Courts public housing community, and moved to Bowen Homes in 2004, she said. Lowe has five children ages 13, 14, 16, 17, and 19, who will all be evicted by AHA this week if no one intervenes, she said.
“The hospital fired me,” when she had so many health problems, she said. “I started working at another hospital [but couldn’t continue working there]. I have diabetes and high blood pressure. They were still asking me to pay $369 per month. They said it was my fault I lost my job. You know they’re gonna put on the paper it was my fault, and they believed them,” Lowe said.
She now owes $992 in rent and around an additional $400 in warrant fees, she said.
Angela Welch recently received her pharmacy technician certificate after attending GMI Everest Institute full-time, she said. But instead of celebrating now, Welch fears eviction for her and her 7 children, ages 2, 3, 4, 13, 14, 16, and, 17.
“My situation is, the company, JT Cleaning Service, went out of business. I gave them [the rent office] notice in March 2007, but they didn’t go down on my rent until August,” Welch says. She had been working at JT Cleaning Service part-time on top of going to school until it closed, she said.
Her rent continued at $191 per month, she said, instead of going back down to $125. This would mean she overpaid about $250 between March and August.
“I was an extern [with school]. I had no income. I have a job but it doesn’t start until next month,” Welch said.
Welch started falling behind on her rent in July 2007, and has missed three months of rent, although she would appear to have been overcharged in the first place.
“I never saw a social worker. My graduation [from school] is on October 13th. I went on my own. They didn’t send me to school. It was an eight month course,” Welch said.
Debra Brown lost her job at Fresh Start Academy one year ago, she said. She witnessed her supervisor sexually harassing another employee, she says. “The man was messing with her, touching her,” Brown said.
“The rent office said they couldn’t go down on my rent because they said he fired me,” Brown said.
“I said the reason he fired me is because he knew that I knew what he was doing,” Brown said.
Lane Company did not decrease her rent from $231 to the $125 minimum when she lost her job, she said. In July 2007, she started falling behind in her rent and is now three months behind, she said.
Brown has been looking for work, but unable to find it, she said.
“I answered the warrant. I went to court. They told me I have seven days. They won’t let you talk to anybody [like the Judge]. They just said, get out,” Brown recalled.
“With late fees and court costs they tell me I owe $1200. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I need my son to go to school because he has a learning disability. I’m gonna be homeless,” Brown said.
Brown has four children ages 11, 13, 15, and 16, she said.
About the author:
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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