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Rally held to support elderly evicted tenants

December 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A rally was held Thursday in support of four elderly people facing eviction. They live in a home at Menlo Avenue and 29th Street near the University of Southern California. They say they are being forced out unjustly. The lawyer for the home owner tells a different story.

The run-down house on Menlo Ave. is surrounded by renovated homes that have been turned into student housing. The home to four elderly residents is also the center of a battle between the owner, the tenants and the city housing authority.

"Nine weeks ago Mr. Lewellyn and the owner of this house turned off the electricity, the water and the gas in order to try to get people to move out," said Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE).

The owners were taken to court to win relocation money for the tenants. The court ruled in the tenants' favor. The owner sued and temporarily stopped payment.

"We paid our rent. As she was saying, the health condition of this place is in bad shape," said tenant Willie Hill.

"Old people get evicted every day. I don't think that's really the issue here," said Larry Lewellyn, an attorney for the property owner.

According to Lewellyn, the four tenants deserve to be evicted.

"The persons who purport to be elderly here and being abused were people who forced their way in, never paid any rent, causing the environment to be unsafe for the real owner of the property," said Lewellyn.

The city housing department and the courts determined they have paid rent.

Local community groups and churches have come together to support the tenants and try to force the owners to pay relocation fees.

Tenants have run an electric line to a next-door neighbor's for a little light and heat.

"We have to go to the supermarket or to the gas station and sometimes some friends of ours to try to take a shower or take a bath," said tenant Donald Moore.

The elderly residents are going to have to stay here at least until the 30th of this month. That's when they go to court with the housing authority and owner.

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