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A mom's experience through eviction court

The following is the transcript of the remarks by Maryanne--a mom who shares her experience through eviction court in the pandemic. She gave this witness at a Family Promise event "Indy's Eviction Problem: Status, Strategies, & Solutions" on November 4, 2021, hosted by Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.

Good evening, everyone. My name is Maryanne Lundy. Thank you for coming, and thank you for the opportunity to share some of my story here tonight.

In March 2020, when the pandemic hit, I was working at a major hospital on the south side. I lived in an apartment with my three kids as a single mom, and it wasn’t easy, but we were getting by.

At the hospital, I was proud to help patients with COVID-19. I was a team lead for housekeeping, so I did administrative work. But I also worked in rooms with patients on ventilators almost every day. They had us wear a lot of masks and other equipment to stay safe. It was sad to see what the patients were going through, because that virus wasn’t messing around.

I didn’t mind the work, but I had to take leave from my job because when schools and daycares shut down, I had no one to watch my kids. I used family and friends as much as I could, but they had to work too. I eventually missed too many days, and lost my job at the hospital.

Through unemployment and the stimulus, I was able to cover rent for a few months through e-learning. I had fallen behind a couple times, and no matter what the apartments filed eviction on my on the 15th of the month. Each time, to stay in the apartment, I had to pay the rent I owed, plus a $150 filing fee, plus $50 for being late one day, plus $5 per extra day I was late. So each time I fell behind 10 days, I had an additional charge of about $250. With all those fees, I could never catch up.

Finally it was too much, and in September last year, they filed on me, and I went to court. This was Wayne Township, and for those that don’t know it’s called Small Claims Court.

I was so scared and nervous. There are dozens of people there. You don’t know what the judge is gonna say. You can talk to the apartments, but they aren’t there and you don’t know what their lawyer will say.

Before my turn, the judge told a mom “You have 24 hours to get out.” I started crying to myself. There was a girl up there who just had a baby. She didn’t have a job because she had to take care of the baby, and they put her out. They don’t care if you have kids. They will put you out in the middle of winter.

None of us had attorneys. Any time you go to court for anything you need an attorney. The attorney for the apartments don’t show any sympathy at all. You can have the money and the apartments don’t have to accept it. But if you have an attorney to back you up, everything changes. When you’re there by yourself, it seem like the judge is just being mean. With an attorney on your side, the attitude of everybody changes.

I had part of my rent, but the landlord said they weren’t accepting it. Nobody told me anything about resources. I had heard from someone else in court that day about IndyRent, but the judge said I had to fill that out before getting there. I agreed to leave the unit the first week of October 2020, and before my eviction date I was able to cover the rent and late fees I owed. There were no damages bills.

If you go to the court’s website and search for my name, it looks like I was evicted four times by that landlord. Everytime I was able to pay my rent, but late. I paid them an extra $1,000 during the pandemic with my stimulus just for filing fees and late fees because they wouldn’t listen that I couldn’t work with the kids e-learning.

I didn’t want to call a shelter. I asked family for help. I bounced around between hotels and friends’ places for 5 months. An agency called HIP helped us get into a hotel in March of this year. It was so hard to keep a job even when schools reopened not knowing where we would be staying from week to week. Eventually I got into Family Promise’s Diversion program, and they helped me get into housing from the hotel in early May.

After the eviction, it took 9 months for us to be stably housed again. My kids missed school sometimes. When at school, they acted out, and though I am proud of them, we are still working through all the emotions of that time. They didn’t really know we were homeless, but the stress of it affects everybody in the family.

I’m proud now to say that we have been stably housed for the past five months. We have furniture, a decent place, and are beginning to feel like ourselves again. My kids are in school, and I have a computer at home. Just this week I used it to help my friend apply for IndyRent online. People need to know that assistance is available, because the court is not going to tell them. I’ve taken it upon myself to be a social worker for all that I know who are struggling. I don’t want them to go through what I went through.

If you are a family struggling, know that support is out there, and call to find it. You will get through this. If you are someone out there who works in the courts, please fix this. It is like an eviction factory where they just put family after family on the street, regardless of their circumstances. Thank you all for listening to some of my story. Thank you for supporting the work of Family Promise. I hope tonight’s event helps change Indianapolis.

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