Sitting in the parking lot next to an apartment complex I really didn’t expect to meet anyone new to homelessness, and yet I did. They were an elderly couple sitting by the curb with with enough nice furniture to fill a house — not something I’d throw away and yet it was by the curb.
Now that only means one thing: They’d been evicted. When someone goes through the court system and gets evicted by the courts, often you only get 10 days to vacate, and the clock starts ticking from the time you leave court. Weekends count. I understand it’s business and not personal, but what I haven’t figured out is why so quick to evict? Wouldn’t it be easier to work with tenants? The time and money it takes to approve another tenant could be saved by working with a tenant.
I wanted to go up and talk to the couple, but I just wasn’t sure. What help could I be? I had no extra money or really anything to give them, but I had to do something so I walked over and started talking to them and listening to their story.
Irene* is 72 and a retired secretary. Her husband Max* is 68 and a retired salesman for a major company. They both get a small pension and Social Security. They’ve been married for 53 years and say they are even more in love today than when they got married.
Several years ago, Irene was diagnosed with cancer and went through a successful surgery to remove it. Her doctor wanted to make sure it wouldn’t return so they ordered six weeks of chemotherapy. Irene and Max couldn’t afford the treatments on their Social Security and retirement so Max got a part time job at a grocery store to make more money.
Within a few months he made enough for them to start the treatments. Irene is cancer free today, but at a very high price. Max then got sick and was out of work for five weeks. They started struggling to make the home equity payments, and the bank foreclosed on their home — the only home they’d know in their 52 years of marriage.
They found an apartment in Hermitage for $700 a month and moved. Max and Irene never had children so there was no family for them to fall back on. Each year they lived in this apartment, the rent would increase with each new lease signed, stating fair market value. Four months ago it increased to $1,000 a month. Not knowing what else to do they signed the lease.
Eviction came a few months after signing the new lease, creating even more debt for the elderly couple. Discounts and fees were added on with no hope of being able to pay, and they never fought the eviction. “I just didn’t know what to do. I’d never known anyone in this situation,” Irene said. “I didn’t know what to do, who to call or where to go.”
I asked her and Max if anyone was there with them at court giving assistance in housing. They both looked at each other and then said, “Was there supposed to be?”
Why wasn’t there anyone there offering assistance? The nonprofit outreach agencies should have been there. They should be at every eviction hearing to offer help to those being evicted. They call them outreach workers, but sometimes it seems like there isn’t much outreach going on, but rather, “if you know about us you can call us for assistance.” Time is of the essence when you’re losing your residence, it seems like at the very least Max and Irene should have been given information on who might be able to help.
Thankfully, some really great people came to Max and Irene’s aid and they now have a place that’s affordable, fully furnished and are all settled in. This could have ended up very differently and I’m so thankful that it didn’t.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
Aug 21 2019
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Aug 13 2019