September 28th I attended a tenant meeting facilitated by Tenant Advocate Guy Berliner member of the forming PDX Tenants Union and hosted by Shaquita Louis (right) acting resident coordinator and 3 other tenants: Blanca Martinez (left), Sharon Bright (center), April Thorsen (rear), at the Terri Lee Apartments at 15875 East Burnside street in Portland, Oregon.
No Cause Evictions REceived
Tenants reported that on September 1st 2015 all 16 residents were given a 60-day No-Cause Eviction Notice by management informing them that the building had been sold and Fox Management was now in charge.
As I moved through the parking lot making my way to the back where the meeting was taking place, I saw huge piles of trash and garbage piled high on the right side consisting of: food scraps, paper, cans, bottles, mattresses, large area rugs, couches, clothing and other household items strung out on the ground, turned over and or standing on end. It looked like a wrecking crew had plowed through the residence.
Near the back I saw yellow tape surrounding two large heaps of dug up ground directly in front of one of the units. It looked like someone had begun digging two graves. I asked, “What is happening here?” The tenants explained that people with mobility issues couldn’t even get out of their doorways due to the blockage. It had been there for over a week.
Evicted Tenants In Crisis
Only 4 of the 16 residents came out to take part in the meeting. Many were peering out from behind their blinds looking on as April, Blanca, Sharon and Shaquita shared their experience as suddenly displaced tenants having no money, few resources and no immediate affordable replacement housing options available.
The meeting was held outside due to the bed-bug infestation. Several of the tenants stated that management had failed to resolve the bed-bug situation for over a year.
Tenants stated that the previous manager and private owner Robert Norton had promised tenants they would be able to remain in place following the sale of the property to an outside corporation.
The agreement with tenants was part of a “Second Chance” program enabling tenants to attain affordable and long-term stable housing.
Shaquita stated, “Once the sale went through, then we got our notices that we had to move.” Tenants received written No-Cause Eviction notices September 1, 2015.
Though April, Blanca, Sharon and Shaquita have resided at Terri Lee apartments ranging from 3 to 6 years, no face to face meeting with management was ever offered to the tenant community.
Given this vulnerable population of: very low-income families with children, medically challenged and disabled residents (two of which had recently been hospitalized and one still recovering from major surgery), Section 8 recipients and low fixed-income seniors, the residents were surprised to find that none were offered any consideration in regards to their actual physical health and/or financial capacity to move out within the extremely limited 60-day deadline. They also pointed out that a woman living across from their unit is now on Hospice, stating, “And they are making her move out too.”
Where Do We Go?
These women expressed worry and distress about facing this crisis unprepared and finding a new place to live within such a limited time-frame. Given the high demand for low-income apartments, Section 42 buildings and property-based Section 8 apartments are now fully occupied. All that is left are 1 – 5 year waiting lists.
In Their Own Words April, Blanca, Sharon and Shaquita Speak Out
“We were barely making it — before they evicted us”
April, working as a clerk at Fred Meyers for 10 years, expressed struggling with paying rent on time, even when she was working full-time and receiving assistance through the Section 8 program. She explained that it was due to the receipt of her pay-checks being out of sync with her rent, utilities and other household payment due dates.
Caught in the Late Fee Trap
Though diligently attempting to pay all of her bills on time, April stated, “I end up paying $100.00 extra every month in rent, because of being charged late fees.” All 4 of the women nodded in agreement.
“It’s as if they want to keep charging you”
No money to move
Because of on-going serious health issues, April is unable to continue working full-time, so now she takes home less than one-third of her very modest full-time income.
Conscientiously trying to keep on top of monthly utilities and other household obligations while only working part-time, she and the other women also stated, “We don’t have money left to move or pay application fees, first and last month’s rent and pet deposits.”
What to do with our Pets?
With 30 days remaining on the eviction time-line, Blanca expressed concerns about what could be done with her dog if she could not find replacement housing in time or if the new property owner would not allow pets. Others voiced their need for temporary pet shelters and financial assistance to cover the costs. “Losing our pets would be losing a member of our family.”
Rental Search Resources Needed
Most rental searches are done on-line and over the phone, requiring significant computer skills, access to a working computer and printer, having a phone, postage, paper and ink supplies in order to download and print dozens of wait-list applications. The lack of access to these fundamental prerequisites often poses significant barriers for many seniors, disabled and low-income renters. Shaquita stated, ” I can’t print out the E-mail information you sent us because I ran out of paper.” One tenant I spoke with didn’t have a telephone.
Ex Tenant speaks about Fox management
Tenants are in an Emergency!
Tenants with significant health challenges are scrambling to find replacement housing under extreme pressures with little or no financial resources, no time and no immediate housing options available.
Due to the extreme rent-hikes, the Section 8 Vouchers have been rendered null and void in the mainstream rental market. The low-cost housing market (E.g. Section 42, Reach & HAP properties) has become so over burdened by an ever-growing public need that these once relied upon failsafe properties have also reached their limit, leaving seniors, persons with disabilities and low-wage earners with nowhere to go.
FOR EXTREMEly VULNERABLE
A SUDDEN NO-CAUSE EVICTION
IS NOT ONLY AN EMERGENCY
It’s ALSO LIFE THREATENING
Tenants Need Your Help!
Ways Property Owners Can help
- Set aside 1 or 2 affordable units for low-income tenants
- Ask other property owners to join our cause
Ways Home Owners Can Help
- Clear out that spare bedroom and make it available for immediate short-term housing for a tenant on an affordable housing waiting list.
This is an opportunity for you to support others in your community and to earn some extra cash for you and your family.
- Contact your local homeowners association inviting others to join the cause.
Ways Tenants Can Help
- Talk to your neighbors
- Host a tenant meeting in your building
- Become a Tenants Priced Out Volunteer
- Share your story with CAT (Community Alliance of Tenants)
- Attend Portland Tenants Union Meetings – Joining the cause
- Contact Portland City Commissioners and Voice Your needs and ideas for legislation that support renters having affordable and stable market-rate housing
Help us Create aN Emergency Tenants Fund $$$
Talk to your friends, neighbors, business and neighborhood associations, property owners, realtors, faith organizations and others about contributing to a Tenant’s Emergency Fund.