Dad, We've Been Evicted.


root - Posted on 27 May 2002

One woman's terrifying journey through eviction from The Bayview district apartment of her and her whole family

by Gay Montgomery/PoorNewsNetwork media intern

How did I get here? When did the journey to nowhere begin? Why was I closing the door for the last time on my apartment of over 30 years in the Bay view district of San Francisco? Was it when I walked out of the Homeless Advocacy Project, and knew that I had to find a place for my 61-year-old father to live by 5:00 pm that same day? I felt as low as the curb.

When I got to my apartment I knew my father was waiting for his dinner. He did not know it was time to move out. My footsteps were beating in my heart like a drum and I moved like a snail as I fixed his dinner as usual. I still could not face the reality of telling him, "Dad, we’ve been evicted." I said nothing.

"Do you have the rent." It was September 25, 2001. The Manager, knocked at the door, a torturing sound if you are behind on your rent, because you had to use money like I did, for liquid Drano on my apartments broken plumbing for months and months.

I was leaving the next day on a trip to Georgia. I said, "My father will have it for you. Did you know our car got towed?...Did you come to see the sink? ...Did you bring the key for the garage?" He just stood there like a bull, staring, hands on his hips, scowl on his face, impatience in his voice, he said in a loud voice, "NO!" Then he turned on his heel and left. I slammed the door so he could hear it. I thought, why did he come here on the 25th asking for rent, he had not done any repairs on the apartment since the owner had acquired the place in 1996. I thought we should be able to live here for free anyway, like the scores of roaches did. The Manager and I never got along; I felt heat and hatred whenever I saw him. After he left I drafted a letter to the owner of the building, asking for the garage to be opened and the sink to be unstopped and left on my trip. Riding a wave of uneasiness, I went to Georgia to help mom with the family business. Little did I know that he was to begin a process of evicting me.

I got back to San Francisco five days before Halloween. I felt no need to worry about rent. All I could think about was that my 13 year old son had gotten too old for a costume. I was worried that I’d have to try and scrape up the money at the last minute. That morning my son’s stepbrother came bouncing in asking for a breakfast of bacon and grits and money so he and my son could go downtown shopping. When my son opened the door his eyes looked real big as he handed me a paper that was taped to the door. He said, "Mom what’s this." Notice to Vacate by October 31, 2001 was at the top of the letter in large type. I said, "It’s nothing" as I handed him money. I sat on my bed and just cried. My heart felt so heavy like an anvil was on it; I could not believe what was happening to me. Time seemed to stop.

Daily, with fear in my heart a pit that made my stomach feel empty. I started making phone calls to stop the eviction, lawyers, POOR Magazine, cousins, friends. Breathless fast paced mountains of hope conversations full of fear and courage. I walked in the rain the next day to the Eviction Defense Collaboration, then I went to the S. F. Tenants Union. They helped me with paperwork to get a stay until November 7th. I felt clouds were lifting, I made appointments with potential lawyers.

I have an aunt and uncle who were Deputy Sheriffs so I contacted Deputy Lewis of the S. F. Sheriff’s Department I asked him to come see my dad. He saw dad was a senior and disabled but he said there was nothing he could do. He could not stop the eviction. I knew that if my Aunt had been alive she would have stopped the eviction.

I spent 2 days with a staff lawyer at the Homeless Advocacy Project. All I wanted was to move back into my place. Then negotiations started with the landlord, he told the building manager to make me a key to the garage and asked me to store my belongings in it. The landlord told me I could move back in when they finished making renovations, but only if I went and talked to his lawyer, Daniel Bornstein about a yet to be negotiated amount of money.

I called Daniel Bornstein, he never called back. The dark clouds formed again. I was beginning to think my landlord enjoyed the treadmill theory. Keeping me on a string of lies and disappointments.

I kept going and going and going, calling agencies and trying to negotiate with the landlord. Time ran out. The eviction still happened.

I felt like I was stuck to the floor. I stared; my eyes glued as if hypnotized to a spot on the wall were my mother had broken a mirror years ago. The walls to me were in a spiral and I was falling down I could not leave there… but I could just see myself cling to a window as the sheriff locked me out I felt like shouting. "Why God, Me!" Stop the wind from blowing me out this door." I love this dwelling it is the place that brought the sunshine and the cookies and these walls they know my voice and I give parties like no other ever will, so say these walls. These walls are standing looking at me, singing to me bout’ the fun we always had; my head is swinging to fro and I am crying and the walls say she is our girl don’t let her go. I grab my head and wipe my tears on the back of my hand and lift my 10-ton head back up. I grab my stuff that feels like it is a worthless bag of rocks. I closed the door, and then I cried like a river was flowing.

I walked out of the apartment I had lived in ever since I was 1 years old. My thoughts were racing like a NASCAR car spun out unto the track and my mind was spinning wildly. How could I have done this to my family? It was my fault for asking for repairs & not paying rent on time. Thinking I was doing right. When the world I knew had gone all wrong. I saw me fall off of a cliff, I saw a train blurring towards me in the distance, and I saw it run into me and take me out. All I saw was darkness.

Postscript;

Gay and her family are currently homeless, wrongfully evicted from their family home of 30 years. Gay is fighting the wrongful eviction through media organizing at POOR Magazine. Meanwhile, they are hoping to get the help of an attorney who would take their case probono. If you have any referrals please contact her through POOR at (415) 863-6306

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