Tenant Network Rhode Island (TNRI), Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Childhood Lead Action Project (CLAP) and other coalition partners hosted a ‘name and shame’ presentation of research by Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) and TNRI on the worst evictors in Rhode Island Tuesday evening, on Zoom. The event was projected outside the Garrahy District Court Complex in downtown Providence by a small group of masked, socially distanced activists.
Here’s the livestream:
The coalition believes that any eviction is an injustice and an act of violence and that evicting families and tenants during a pandemic, in addition to being immoral, also threatens the integrity of our public response and community health.
During the event, the top ten landlords who have evicted people in Rhode Island, and the top ten lawyers representing landlords evicting people in Rhode Island, were publicly.
The name and shame project is a “virtual movement to bring awareness to evictions in Rhode Island,” said DARE’s Terri Wright, an organizer with TNRI. “Housing is an essential item that warrants the same protections as wearing a mask.”
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HOPE and TNRI collected information public court records on evictions from June 2020 to the present. Theis only covers evictions for non-payment of rent. “Lots of people have been evicted for other reasons, either through the courts, or by landlords acting illegally to evict tenants on their own,” said Amelia Anthony, who presented the data. “Anyone working one on one with renters during Covid has heard countless stories of folks falling through the cracks, folks who don’t make it into this public data.”
Anthony added that due to the lack of access to low cost or free legal representation, a significant portion of tenants, facing any kind of eviction or legal action either do not take advantage of their right to due process, or leave voluntarily out of fear, misunderstanding and/or landlord intimidation.
Here’s the video of the data presentation:
Here are all the slides from the presentation:
- Top areas for eviction actions since March are Providence, Woonsocket and Pawtucket.
- In Woonsocket, 1 in every 50 households is facing an eviction.
- Reviewing by zip codes reveals that neighborhoods with the lowest per-capita income have had the most activity against renters and tenants. This means that our poorest, least-served neighbors are the ones who have been hardest hit by evictors.
- As many of the top offenders are large management companies, this is a second pandemic that puts profits ahead of protecting the most vulnerable populations in our state. For instance, Wingate Companies is a nationwide management company that deals in Rhode Island with low-income housing. Wingate has taken eviction actions against over 30 families – more than half of these just in the last month.
- The top three offenders to be named and shamed on Tuesday have filed respectively 44, 40, and 34 legal actions against 118 total households.
- Evicting households means evicting children. After having their schooling disrupted by the pandemic, an estimated 140 children are now going through an eviction.
“We want to remind you that these are only the evictions that have been processed by the court,” said Anthony in closing. “There have been many, many instances of illegal eviction, not reported in the public data, that is not represented in this map.”
“Evictions for nonpayment of rent are delayed until December 31, per the CDC eviction moratorium, but evictions for any other reason are still allowed and are being processed by the courts,” said Terri Wright, adding that this means landlords that want to evict people for nonpayment of rent, but can’t do so legally, are finding other reasons to evict tenants.
“It also means that people who are evicted are put on the street at a time when finding new housing is almost impossible – putting them at a huge risk of becoming homeless,” continued Wright. “And what happens on January 1 when the CDC Moratorium runs out and mass evictions begin again? We may see one of the largest spikes in homelessness Rhode Island has ever seen, at a time when the pandemic will almost certainly not be over.”
The organizers of the event suggested actions the state could take to alleviate this crisis. First, the General Assembly could pass Bill S2926 and H8126, which would establish an eviction moratorium during the pandemic emergency. “They’ve had hearings on other things, why not this?” asked Wright. “Do our legislators care so little about our constituents that they won’t pick up a bill that will keep us housed and safe?”
The coalition also called upon Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to issue an executive order preventing evictions, as has been done by other Governors across the United States, including in neighboring Connecticut.
“Governor Raimondo should stop being a coward and use her executive power to protect renters from being evicted in the middle of winter and in a global pandemic,” said Wright.