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Twice I had to undergo the stress of finding a new place to live as contractors demolished the building I called home to build a new one. There is a glimmering tall glass building facing the waterfront where one of my first apartments used to be. Someone built it thinking it would be much more beautiful than what was there before. But that’s not how I see it.

The first time I was evicted, I was given only a week to leave. I’m no young lady, but I could not afford anything but to do the moving alone.

I was lucky enough to receive a housing voucher, but under that sort of time pressure I had to take whatever rental space was available. I ended up with a bad apartment, in a far more dangerous area, and further away from my job. I worried about the safety of my grandson, who lived with me. It took me a full five years before I could save enough money to move somewhere better. Eviction affected me emotionally and mentally, but it fundamentally took away my sense of a home. I carry that burden with me.
In 2003, my wife and I took out a loan to buy a three-family home. We rented out the spaces we weren’t using. She was an accountant. I was a carpenter. We raised our kids there. Then the 2008 recession hit. I could no longer find work, and my tenants struggled to pay rent. I applied nine times to the loan modification program, with no success.

By 2010, I could no longer make payments. The bank expected me to pay $3,700 a month, but my one tenant left was paying only $1,500 a month.

Unemployed, I couldn’t come up with the rest. This created tension between me and my wife. After being married 22 years, she left with our children. By 2013, the bank foreclosed my home. Fannie Mae took over my account, and sold my house to investors, who sold it to a private company. Now, alone, I’m facing eviction. This ordeal has made me suffer more than you can possibly imagine.
I rented a house for my daughter and me. One day in April, my boyfriend visited my home and assaulted me. The police came and arrested him, but an officer told me, “We are gonna have your landlord evict you.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. But I found out that my town had a nuisance law that considered households with repeated 911 calls to be “disorderly.” If I or anybody else called 911 three times about my home in a short period, I would be evicted. I broke up with my boyfriend, but that didn’t stop him from coming back and hurting me. I couldn’t call the police, but my neighbors did, which only put me and my daughter closer to eviction.
It happened in June. My ex returned and stabbed me in the neck. A neighbor called 911, and I was airlifted to the hospital. That was the last strike. The city pressured my landlord to evict me. If he resisted, they could condemn the property. It felt so wrong, like I was twice victimized. I decided to fight it. I reach out to the ACLU and together we stood up for my rights—and won. My town repealed its nuisance law. My state passed a law that said cities can’t punish crime victims for calling the police. But these ordinances are all over the country. So I want to tell women who find themselves in my situation: you have a right to be heard. Fight it.
A little over a year ago, all six families living in my building were given eviction notices. We were given 30 days to leave. I felt lost and scared. But we banded together and brought our case to local government representatives. Our landlord agreed to let us stay, but he raised everyone’s rent to $2,500 from $1,000 a month. We don’t know if we can fight this.

All of us have lived in the building for five years or more. Many of us have kids. If we have to leave, I will be forced to move outside the city because we can’t afford rent anywhere else. My daughter would have to leave Boston Latin School.

She worked so hard to get a place there, and it would break my heart to take her out. Moving would also make it difficult for my husband and me to get to work, and the time spent commuting would take us away from our children.

Right now, our lives revolve around this struggle. We are trying to prove that we are honest, hard-working people, who simply can’t afford that kind of a rent increase. I hope things end for the better soon.

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