The Housing Industrial Complex Pt. 2

In August 2016, I moved in with a friend. The end of 2014/ all of 2015 had been a chaotic/scary time of running around trying to secure stable housing while raising a new baby.

I also got a job. It was an opportunity given to me after successfully completing a class on poverty. The organizer arranged for graduates to meet with human resources at a local business, and we were interviewed on the spot.

The next eight months were pretty uneventful. I tried to make the most out of my employment situation. It wasn’t ideal for me. I was grossly underpaid for my education/background, but since I was in a town fueled by hospitality dollars…the job was as good as it was going to get. At the very least, the job made it able for my son and I to survive.

More than 20 percent of Americans spend over half their income each week on rent, a number that continues to rise, recession or not.

Then one morning in March 2017, I was preparing to go to work. My roommate sat on the couch with a grimace on her face.  I asked her what was wrong. She stated the night before, she had accidentally fallen against the window while trying to put on her shoes. My roommate had poor health/bad knee problems, so it was difficult for her to stand without support. She miscalculated leaning her arm against the wall, and instead pushed her arm through the window. It had broken. She had cuts all over her arm. We chuckled about it, because we often poked fun how clumsy she was.

Neither one of us thought more about it. She stated she would let the manager know what happened and I hurried off to work. Later, that day, I received a text message from my roommate. The manager had been angry about the broken window and wanted to evict us. I was floored. Why would she do that? It was an accident.

When I returned home from work, my roommate explained to me that the manager believed the window had been broken on purpose. She alleged it had been broken in a fight. We couldn’t believe it. The manager maintained other tenants had told her that there had been a loud ruckus the night the window was broken. Supposedly, my roommate (who could barely get around most times without her breathing machine), had been in a knock down/drag out fight with a mysterious someone, as she couldn’t describe what the person looked like.

The fight was to have started down the hill near the manager’s apartment, yet she admitted she hadn’t heard anything. Then the alleged fight had moved back up the hill, near our apartment, and that’s when the window was broken.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women,” Desmond writes. “Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

I tried to talk to the manager.  She remained adamant that the window had been broken during a fight and that we had to go because the disturbance violated the lease agreement. I offered to pay for the window, as she seemed more upset by that then the supposed fight (also, my roommate and I observed on the form she gave us regarding the eviction, the only thing she marked was property damage. nothing about a fight/noise disturbance). On my next day off, which was not a day or so later, I got a money order for $297 dollars and paid for the window. I left it in the manager’s mail slot. We didn’t hear from the manager, so we assumed she had decided not to evict us since we paid for the window.

A few days later, we received a letter that we had been scheduled for an eviction hearing.  We were shocked. We couldn’t believe she was still going to kick us out over an accident…that we paid for in full. I was angry and I could not help to wonder if we were two white mothers, would she have done the same thing. After all, we were living in the Deep South were confederate flags flew freely.  Where my roommate, before she got really sick, had a white man spit at her feet as she was leaving work. In a town, where white folks smiled with glee with the election of #45.

I also became furious upon learning that while this woman was trying to evict us over a broken window, she had moved one of her friends into an apartment.  That friend had to flee from the premises after police came looking for them. They literally left the door wide open, in their haste to get away. So, she had no qualms dealing with someone on the run, but forcing out single two mothers over an accident?

Our research shows that African-American tenants are nearly four times more likely to have an eviction case filed against them compared to white tenants. The disparity is even starker for African-American women: They are more than five times as likely to have a filing against them compared to households headed by white men.

Much later, after dealing with this unfair situation, I became interested in the issue of Black women and evictions.  What happened to us was not uncommon. Black women tend to be vulnerable to evictions because we (1) usually are the head of households (2) tend to be more targeted due to racism.



Author: Tonya J.

I enjoy reading, writing, and traveling!

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