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Jan. 5 2010 - 1:39 pm | 572 views | 1 recommendation | 5 comments

Lenise Forrest evicted from Cabrini-Green

Lenise Forrest, outside her former unit at the Cabrini Rowhouses

Lenise Forrest, outside her former unit at the Cabrini Rowhouses

I thought I had a stressful morning.

A story to finish by 7:30 a.m. battling rush hour traffic on 94, radio gig with a guest who never showed.

I was still flustered by my day when Lenise Forrest called. “I was evicted this morning,” she said plainly.

They knocked on the door this morning, let her make a phone call and grab her medications, and then shuffled her out, locking the door. She’s staying with a friend for awhile, until she and her sons figure out what they’re going to do.

“We tried to fight,” she said. “I’m sorry that it didn’t work.”

I told her I was sorry, too.

It’s a reality many of us will never have to face, and yet is so prevalent. The reality of the sheriff knocking on your door to tell you it’s time to go.

A recent study in Milwaukee found that one in 20 renter-occupied households is evicted each year there. In black neighborhoods, it’s one in 10. Nearly 60 percent of those tenants are female.

I thought I had a stressful morning until Lenise put it in perspective for me. Real stress is not knowing where you’re going to lay your head that night, and not knowing what you’ll be calling home tomorrow.

Would she keep fighting? I asked.

She sighed. “No,” she said, “it’s time for me to move on.”

I didn’t know what to say. I just wished her my best. Lenise said thanks, and we hung up the phone.

How many more people will be greeting with a knock on the door from the sheriff, now that the holiday eviction moratorium is over?

The author of the Milwaukee study said it’s not so easy to move on after an eviction.

“If you’re evicted, you carry this stain and you’re pushed to the very bottom of the rental market,” he said. “Most landlords won’t take you, so you end up with really unscrupulous landlords.”

But I wonder – where will she go? Public housing is supposed to be the housing of last resort.

Where do you go when your last resort is finished?

I don’t know.


5 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    I don’t understand. Why don’t you know?

  2. collapse expand

    Really nice piece. Being evicted is bad enough. You don’t often think about what happens next — that things could actually get worse and stay that way for a long time.

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    About Me

    I'm a journalist living in Chicago writing about poverty and public housing. I don't come from the streets - I grew up on a farm. But I'm passionate about urban issues and getting to know people who are completely different from me. I'm quirky, funny and friendly.

    I have this idea about journalism - that it should be approachable and less "newsy." I want my stories to make you laugh, cry and draw you in to neighborhoods and situations you don't deal with every day. I hate the broadcaster voice. I hate TV news. I hate the inverted pyramid. I love surprise. I love humor. I love people and telling their stories.

    In addition to being a journalist, I also teach dance for the Chicago Public Schools. I don't just do it for the money. I love children and love arts education. I'm also on the board of a new nonprofit dedicated to helping the underserved find jobs called Employing Hope. I write fiction, keep house, and am generally a renaissance woman.

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