Evictions Averted so far for Unemployed Families in Bowen Homes
(APN) ATLANTA — None of the two dozen or so families who were expecting to be evicted from Bowen Homes public housing community on Thursday, October 04, 2007, were evicted as of yet, and they appear safe for the moment.
Previously, Atlanta Progressive News broke the news that these families could be evicted as early as Thursday morning.
The article prompted actions by a local attorney, as well as lobbying by many parties, to stop the evictions. City Councilwoman Felicia Moore and Resident Advisory Board President Diane Wright had both pleaded on the residents’ behalf to the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA). Meanwhile, advocates with the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless mobilized for a possible protest. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper (AJC) also reported on the incident Thursday.
Attorney Lindsay Jones, of Emory University Law School, who has worked closely with the residents, sent a letter on Tuesday to Fred Joseph Rushing, Jr., an attorney who represented the Lane Company, an agent for AHA, according to a copy obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
Rushing had worked to commence and prosecute dispossessory actions involving about 25 families from Bowen Homes on September 25, 2007, in Fulton County Magistrate Court.
The Lane Company, which manages Bowen Homes on behalf of AHA, filed dispossessory motions against these families last month claiming the tenants failed to pay their rent on time, in some cases by three or four months.
Jones argues that after speaking with several families, many “have explanations with merit that warrant consideration that was not afforded to them prior to or during the proceedings before the Magistrate Court.”
Jones also writes that residents told him they did not hear from social workers that would review each family’s situation for possible exemptions or extensions before being evicted, even though such a review by a professional AHA social worker was promised by AHA Director Renee Glover in a letter to Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore.
Several residents also provided Atlanta Progressive News with consistent accounts last weekend.
A judge issued a writ of possession at the September 25, 2007, hearing, and the families were ordered to vacate their homes by October 02, 2007. Residents had seven days to file an appeal.
Several affected residents met with two attorneys from Atlanta Legal Aid Thursday to discuss their cases and ask questions about what to do next.
J.C. Hillis said residents should have filed an appeal within seven days of the September 25, 2007, hearing and informed residents they could file a pauper’s affidavit that would waive the expensive appeals filing fees.
Appealing this decision “stays” the writ of possession until the management company files a motion to have the rent paid to court.
If the resident does not pay his or her rent to court or cannot make a successful argument for obtaining an extension or a payment reduction, then the judge can rule the writ of possession is back on.
The writ of possession is processed by the court clerk and sent to the county’s marshal department for execution.
The marshal department contacts the management company to set up a date and time to be on site to keep the peace while the management company hires an eviction service to remove the belongings from a resident’s apartment.
However, even after the management company and marshal department have made these arrangements, the management company could still decide not to evict the resident and cancel arrangements with the marshal.
Jones goes on in his letter to request Rushing ask the Lane Company to “voluntarily [forego] the issuance of writs of restitution and ejecting the families onto the street until we can attempt a mediated resolution to the twenty-five cases.”
Five families have been able to resolve their disputes this week with public housing officials and APN learned several more families appear to be working with management to resolve their situations but it is unclear how many are doing so.
It is also unclear what the terms are of any agreement entered into between residents and management, such as if anyone will have more time to pay or if the amount owed will be reduced.
“Someway or another, we are going to win this,” Shirley Hightower, President of the Bowen Homes residents association, said.
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Jonathan Springston is the Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at email@example.com
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