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The following is a transcript of the remarks by Kelly McGhee at the event "Indy's Eviction Problem (and what can be done about it)" and Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.  The event was sponsored by Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis with guest speakers from Indiana Legal Services, Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, and Prosperity Indiana.  Family Promise thanks Kelly for her courage to share her story.  

"Good evening.  My name is Kelly McGhee.  Thank you for being here tonight because it is important that we help people keep housing when it is due to them.

Mike from Family Promise asked if I would be willing to share my story tonight, and so here it is.

First, I want to say that when I was younger, I got an eviction on my record.  I had signed a lease to pay rent.  Things happened, and I didn’t pay the rent.  The landlord evicted me, and I don’t think I even went to court.  I made mistakes, and the law worked like it’s supposed to.  Though the apartment wasn’t perfect, I don’t fault that landlord at all.  I made an agreement, and I didn’t honor my part.

But second, and what I’m here to tell you tonight, is that since my kids started growing, I’ve been working hard to put my life together.  My partner Brian works in landscaping.  I work in home healthcare and am two months away from a Bachelor's degree in Business Management.  Home health care is hard work, caring for the sick and elderly, but I know it has a purpose.

About three years ago, my partner Brian and I were renting a house with our children.  Our rent was up to date, and we paid the landlord a set amount to cover all utilities.

When the utility bill was high in the middle of the lease, the landlord demanded more money of us that we didn’t agree to.  He filed an eviction.

We got the notice and went to court.  It was dismissed because he had filed in the wrong township.

He filed again in the right township.  We got the notice and went to court.  We made our case, and the judge dismissed it all.

The landlord then turned the utilities off.  It’s not just uncomfortable to be in a house without heat or air conditioning, but it’s also illegal if you have kids.  We didn’t want to catch a case with DCS [Department of Child Services].

We left the house—leaving the appliances we had bought behind—and stayed with family.  While we were out, the landlord changed the locks.  We knew that was wrong, but we were busy getting the kids to school from where we were staying, trying to find a new place to live, all while working.

It has been hard to get back on our feet ever since, though we have had some apartments.  It is always hard to find one, though, and we didn’t know why until a couple months ago.  We found out that someone was trying to garnish Brian’s wages from his landscaping job.  Turns out it was that landlord from three years ago.

After we had moved out of the house and he changed the locks, he filed an eviction on us for a third time.  The notice from the court we think was mailed to the house, but we had left there.  We had checked the mail occasionally, but it was always empty—we suspect someone was collecting the mail before we got there.  Now, if you go to a public site called, you’ll see that the judge awarded that landlord $3,500 from our pocket, and there is a pending order to garnish our wages for it.

It was a judgment for $3,500 made against us at an eviction hearing that we didn’t know anything about.

Now when we are looking for housing, new potential landlords see that judgment.  They also see that he filed on us three times—they don’t read that it was in the wrong township, that it was then dismissed, then that we weren’t even there.  And they don’t want to take a chance on renting to us.

We are going to make it, I’m going to finish school, and my kids aren’t going to go through this again.  But any help each of you can be to change the system and make the eviction cases more balanced for people like my family, well, it’s very important.

Thank you for being here today."

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