Nowhere to Go

root - Posted on 17 June 2002

A Family in danger of losing their only home in Oakland

by By Isabel Estrada/PoorNewsNetwork Youth in the Media Intern

A numbness came over me. I’m the one in my family to skip over all the emotional distressing and get onto fixing the situation. "So we’re either going to have to get a lawyer and go to court or we’re going to have to get a new place," I told my mom matter-of-factly. "Isabel, I have bad credit, there’s a one percent vacancy in San Francisco, the rents are higher than they’ve ever been and lawyers charge, what, $200.00 an hour. It’s not that easy," as she said it the furrows in her forehead and around her mouth got a little deeper and her skin a little paler. "Oh," I said, the confidence draining from my voice. I could see the worry beginning to suffocate her. She didn’t see any way out of the situation. Our landlord was trying to raise our rent from $1500 to $3000 because she said we were sub-tenants. We already needed a roommate just to make up the initial rent so there was no way we could afford the increase.

Now Scott Sloan and his family, including daughter Javlyn Woods, her husband and children, of 588 55th street in Oakland are also in danger of losing their home. The inside of the house looks like a movie set. There is a dark reddish light permeating the air. The center of the house is the living room where the older members of the family converge to participate in the telling of how the County Social Services is trying to take away their home. The kids come in to tumble over their mother like newborn cubs, all the while observing us in with intelligent, knowing eyes.

This seems to be a case of the Alameda county government scamming a poor family out of their home and out of their money simply because they can. Mrs. Beatrice Sloan owned four properties until Alameda County Social Services decided that she was to sick and to old to see to care for them properly, so that they assigned Alfred Fisher, Estate Manager/Investigator, as her public guardian. While Mrs. Sloan’s daughter, Luella Williams was acting as her conservator they did not allow her to sell any of the properties; she could only make repairs. However, in 1997, Alfred Fisher sold one of Mrs. Sloan’s properties first giving the reason that it was for maintenance of the other properties, then changing his story to say that it was to pay for medical expenses though Mrs. Sloan was being cared for by her daughter. None of the family ever saw any repairs or any money. When Williams missed one court date that she says her lawyer never told her about, the Social Services Department decided to assign Sloan a nurse instead of allowing her own family to care for her. Fisher then sold a property where another member of the family was living, giving no reason at all. When she visited the house Javlyn said she never even saw a for sale sign.

Now there are only two properties left, the one that the Sloans and Woods’ are living in and another house a few blocks away. Scott Sloan, at 65 yrs. old has reason to say, "I don’t like movin’," but he’s been packed since October to move out temporarily so that the house can be fixed by Fisher, who has been receiving rent from them for the 15 years they’ve been living there. The reason is that one of his grandchildren has already suffered from Lead Poisoning from living in the house. However, though the family has been requesting repairs for numerous years, the only changes since 1976 have been that smoke alarms were installed and some metal bars were taken off of the windows. The more important requests, like taking care of the lead situation have not been dealt with. Mrs. Woods says that Fisher’s response is to send someone to "come in and take a picture."

When Mr. Sloan asked Fisher where all his mother’s money was going Mr. Fisher got very uncomfortable and soon after started threatening eviction, supposedly because he needed to pay for the rest home where Beatrice Sloan is now living. Sloan has noted that, "when you start asking questions, that’s when all the stuff really starts coming down." Now that he wants to evict them so that he can sell the property, Fisher is stating as a reason that the living conditions are unhealthy because there are eight people in a small two-story house. However a small living space is desirable when compared to the alternative of no living space at all.

Just as my mother and I never believed that our landlady would double our rent just because she could under the obscure Costa Hawkin’s law, Sloan and his family never conceived of being evicted out of their own family’s house. Now they say "we don’t have nowhere to go." As Mr. Sloan put it, this rampant and unfair eviction is "why I see so many homeless people on the streets."

Now Mr. Sloan is looking for a lawyer. He says that all the lawyers he has spoken to are completely willing to take the case until they hear that the Alameda County Social Services is involved and then they back away like they’ve encountered the plague. My mother and I were able to solve our situation because my grandfather was able to give us the money for a lawyer, but what are the Sloans going to do if all the lawyers are too scared to take the case?

After hearing his story I knew exactly how Mr. Sloan felt when he said that if the County Social Services is going to hurt him, he’ll hurt them first, "I will burn it [the house] down." In his face I could see that same indignation masking the fear and worry that had changed my mother’s face so much. As we left all I could do was hope that somehow Fisher and the Social Services department would pay for what they had done to this family.

At POOR we are trying to make sure that the Sloans are not thrown out of their house. If you could assist us by helping to provide a lawyer or any type of support, please contact us at (415) 863-6306


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