I Can't Leave Here


root - Posted on 12 November 2002

The ongoing Eviction battle of an elder disabled African-American woman; Mrs. Wells

by Liz Rodda/PNN media Intern

Clamped shut in a neck brace and convex back, I watched Grace Wells sit amongst her beloved world. Here a plastic rendition of a carpet curled high at the edges of her favorite room, crushed under scattered plant life. The two windows of vision to the outside world remained shut covered in long white strips of cotton. Despite the deep aroma of aging musk, to this 89-year-old woman these walls are her single source of solace in a rapidly changing world. With no family or close friends to speak of, Grace is absolutely dependant on her home as the only constant sense of security she has. One can only imagine her immediate panic when Grace was recently informed the home she has lived in since 1989 would be reaped from her entirely. After receiving two eviction notices, Grace must now ask herself a terrifying question: how will a low-income disabled senior manage to survive in a chaotic world that owes no one favors?

Under the State Ellis Act, that allows one to terminate responsibility as a landlord, Mr. and Mrs. Croucher are attempting to evict Grace Wells from the lower compartment of their San Francisco apartment complex. Apparently, they desire to turn the three separate units they own into a single-family mansion. They have shirked from numerous laws that prohibit evictions of seniors, disabled, and catastrophically ill persons while also completely ignoring the welfare of their long-term disabled tenant. Grace presently suffers from arthritis, Diabetes, a heart condition, as well as senior status. "They treat me cool," Grace’s lips pressed tightly together, "very cold. They want to make the house into one big building and the lady said she’s going to stay here and build a family. But you need a baby to start a family." As far as Grace Wells was concerned, the Crouchers have never had any real intentions of moving into the house to "start a family", but desire to build a house for economic profit.

Despite her extreme physical discomfort, Grace maintains her name, charming visitors and neighbors with her poise. "I’ve lived in this area for a long time. I came to San Francisco in 1942 and have always lived in this area," Grace reflected. "Now they are expecting me to move and with the cost of rent it will be hard on me, not on them." Grace attempted to shift her aged body, but remained prisoner of a neck brace and trembling hands. "Do you see my hands?" she asked me, "My hands are all crippled. It’s challenging. I’m trying to live nice and comfortable, but I have terrible arthritis and of course I can’t leave here." Grace sighed and looked up to Dean, a neighbor and friend who assisted her in daily complications.

The echoes of a picket march outside her home became more intense as Grace was assisted in peering out her window to wave to her supporters. Shouts rang aloud, "Croucher, Croucher stole my pad, Croucher, Croucher, bad, bad, bad." Hand-made signs floated by her window demanding, "Say no to evictions!" and "This is bull shit!" When asked Grace how she felt about the march against her eviction, she smiled, answering with a laugh, "I appreciate them trying to help me because it is so hard. It is hard tryin to pack when you’re old with arthritis. It will be hard. It sure will be hard." Grace returned to her torn fabric chair to rest her worn body. I thanked Grace for allowing me to speak with her. She responded with a wink, "thank you." I left the apartment in a daze, wondering how a woman of such genuine personal appeal could be so obviously discarded. I had to ask myself, what in the world could Mrs. And Mr. Croucher be thinking in demanding the eviction of Grace Wells?

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