Rogers Park family fights to ward off eviction

Carol Vialdores and her children really need to not get evicted.

“If I’m out of here, I’m going to be struggling,” Vialdores said this week.

On Thursday Vialdores is scheduled to appear in eviction court where a jury is expected to decide whether her family will be able to stay in their Rogers Park apartment. If the court rules that she should be evicted, Vialdores’ housing options will be severely limited.

“Evictions are incredibly disruptive, catastrophic events in people’s lives,” Keeanga Taylor, a Northwestern University graduate student working with the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, said at a rally Monday. “Your kids are uprooted from their school. An eviction goes on your record, which makes it almost impossible or at least very difficult to find alternative housing.”

Vialdores and the other residents of Northpoint Apartments, which comprises more than 100 units across multiple buildings, have some or all of their market-rate rent paid through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program. If Vialdores is evicted, she said, she will be ineligible for other subsidized housing.

At the rally, Vialdores said she would likely have to stay in a shelter if she was evicted.

Vialdores’ eviction is not over unpaid rent.  Northpoint’s management declined to comment about the eviction. Their parent company AIMCO, a Denver real estate investment company, provided a statement citing several reasons for terminating Vialdores’ lease: non-leaseholders living in the apartment, verbal abuse and threats by Vialdores against staff, and leaving one of her children unattended, leading to a fire in the apartment.

Vialdores said only she and her children have lived in the apartment, though the father of two of her children had sometimes stayed at the apartment to help with childcare. Vialdores acknowledged arguing with a Northpoint employee but said she did not threaten her. As for the fire, Vialdores said her young son accidentally started it, but the child was not unattended. His father was with him in the apartment at the time of the fire, she said.

Trying to prevent Vialdores’ eviction and raise awareness of other Northpoint tenants’ concerns, Vialdores, neighbors, and anti-eviction advocates converged at HUD’s Chicago office for a rally and to deliver several hundred petition signatures calling for Edward Hinsberger, a Chicago HUD director, to halt the eviction.

“It went about as well as we could have expected,” Holly Krig, an anti-eviction campaign volunteer said of a 25-minute meeting with Vialdores and Hinsberger. Krig said Hinsberger agreed to convince Illinois Housing Development Authority officials to meet with Northpoint’s management to discuss tenant concerns, but made no commitments to intervene in Vialdores’ eviction. IHDA is an organization that finances and oversees affordable housing development, including Northpoint.

Erica Bledsoe
Erica Bledsoe (right) holds a sign with photos protesters said showed North Point management's failure to maintain some apartments. Bledsoe successfully fought her own eviction from North Point in 2009.

Monday was not the first time that activists sought to get HUD to halt the eviction of a Northpoint tenant. Last year activists were able to compel the department to prevent the eviction of Erica Bledsoe.

Bledsoe had moved to Northpoint to help care for her nephew and nieces when Bledsoe’s mother, the children’s custodial grandmother, fell ill and later died. Although Bledsoe’s mother and the children were on the Northpoint lease, Erica was not and the apartment management tried to evict her.

After HUD’s intervention, Erica was able to sign a lease and remain in the apartment. Erica’s victory, in part, convinced Vialdores to challenge her own eviction.

In the Vialdores case, conflict with Northpoint’s management began over maintenance issues. “I don’t want to tell them something’s wrong because there’s always an argument,” she said.

At Monday’s rally, Northpoint residents said their rocky relationship with management makes them feel particularly vulnerable to eviction. “I think it’s shocking how little accountability there is in this situation,” Krig, the anti-eviction campaign volunteer, said in an interview after the rally.  “Private management companies have a lot of power over whether or not people have a home or whether they can have a home in the future.”

This was originally published as “Being thrown out of your home is almost the least-worst part of being evicted at Medill Reports Chicago” on May 5, 2010.