I have read the story “So Others Might Be Evicted” (8/21). I am one of the ex-tenants at SOME. I knew nothing about the story until the day of the story when Maryann Jones phoned me. I must say that I am glad that the article was written, because SOME are the lowest people I have ever met in my entire life, and they will do anything for a buck.
My son and I lived in the Thea Bowman House at 4065 Minnesota Avenue. We moved into that building in July 1993. It was then permanent affordable housing.
The last two years there were hell. I could not see anyone treat a dog the way SOME treated us. I signed a new lease with SOME April 3, 1996, and I did not receive the lease back until July 1996. I was told I could have a lawyer present before signing the lease, but things changed when it came down to signing. Months later, we had a social worker and were told that we only had two more years to stay there. We never received anything in writing. Everyone was shocked, because some of us were living on low income and those who were not could not afford base rent, either. The lease was called the Flock Amendment.
On Jan. 10, 1997, I received a handmade eviction notice from Larenda Jones. I called the District Building to speak to Irvin Hinton, who acted as go-between for Father John and me. Mr. Hinton works for the Constituents Office. Father John, he said, agreed that no one should be entering my apartment without my knowledge but later changed the story. Hinton referred me to Mr. Tony Kramer, of Neighborhood Legal Services. I told my story to Mr. Brian Gilmore, whom Kramer assigned to the case.
Gilmore did not appear confident in my story at first, because SOME had given them defamation of character about me. But later all that changed as the circus began. I received a summons to appear in court that said I was a roomer in SOME’s building, although my son and I lived there in a two-bedroom apartment. Gilmore came by on several occasions to check the building out, and my apartment, and he took pictures that are in court files. During this entertainment, Gilmore told me that we were going to sign a petition. Caren Bright later took over my case, and she was very good and, I must add, very clever.
I needed a witness to verify my story of why we had to sign the lease, so Maryann Jones became my witness and received a summons herself. This is how Maryann Jones became involved with Neighborhood Legal Services, and Bright became her lawyer also. Continuously I had to take off of work or school to meet with Gilmore or Bright at their office. While we were going to court hearings, SOME’s lawyer Carol Blumenthal told us that she had sent me another summons saying that my lease had expired.
Also, they discussed the harassment that my son and I endured during our stay there. In that meeting Blumenthal told Bright that we could ignore that summons and come to an agreement. They stepped out of the meeting and had a private conference. Afterward Bright told me that SOME wanted to settle out of court.
Another hearing was set up, but I found out that I did not have to appear because she and [SOME’s] Gerlachi and Blumenthal had had their private conference. This is when I was asked to sign a new lease in order to stay there, and I asked why, when we had the facts there stating that we were right. But Bright told me that I had no other choice. Maryann Jones and I agreed to sign the lease together, Sept. 15, 1997, and she did not show up. After I signed the lease, Bright told me that it had to go to Blumenthal before I could get it back, and that I had to prove to them that I had a bank account. Also, I was also told not to mention this to anyone.
Immediately, I smelled a rat. When I got those documents back, they were Xeroxed papers with my name on them. On the new lease it said I had moved in in August 1982, (I moved in in July 1993), and there also was a paper saying that I agreed to the transitional program. I found this paper in my folder at the rental accommodation office. I also saw pages with Bright’s signature and mine, all Xeroxed, with the date Sept. 15, 1997, on the lease. In a meeting with Gerlachi and Larenda Jones after the courts, I was receiving a stipend from work experience, and they wanted to add that to increase my rent. I confronted Bright about it, and I told her the things that Gerlachi had said to me and that I was very tired and something had to be done.
In December 1997, I received a summons, and without my knowledge Maryann Jones received one, too. I also received a refund check from Father John Adams himself to leave Dec. 15. We were in court together in February 1998. The judge said we would have a trial or reach an agreement. I had to represent myself. The judge said to find a lawyer, and I could not. Next, the judge said he was sorry, and he never looked at any of my papers. He also said, “I don’t know who to believe.”
I was told to put my money in escrow. I found out that the same day I did so that Blumenthal had agreed to give me until May 1, 1998. As we left the court Gerlachi was calling to hear the verdict, which I think he already knew. The judge signed a paper for SOME to receive the money in escrow the same day. I found this out in April when I went to pay my rent.
I had no job to pay the rent that people were asking for. I believe in God, and I knew that something would work out. In the meantime, I asked for an extension so my son could finish school and was told that I had threatened them. On May 18, 1998, I received an eviction notice. I moved quickly and put our things in storage. God blessed me with a job and a place to live, but the place was not ready. On June 5, 1998, I went to work and took my son to school. I called downtown every day to see if my name was on the eviction list. This day it was.
Sixteen people from SOME’s staff came to set our things out. Fortunately, there was nothing there we wanted, but they found something even if it was just a scrap of paper.