The woman - "Vivian," who does not want her real name used - fell behind on her rent for four months, but it wasn't because she lacked the money; it was, according to an advocate, because she is forgetful and lives alone, and simply neglected to pay.
Some say that Vivian may not be able to care for herself, while others say that housing provides the stability she needs. Once a nurse, Vivian is now retired and lives alone in the projects.
"I don't think it was handled properly," Minister Shirley Cummins said last week. Cummins is a friend of Vivian's and the co-pastor of the Go Ye Therefore Ministries in Hoboken.
Building administrators sent late notices to Vivian, and eventually, the court sent word that she would soon be evicted if she didn't remedy the situation.
The standard procedure is that after beginning the eviction process, the Hoboken Housing Authority calls whoever the tenant has listed as an emergency contact. They try to inform the tenant's friend or relative of the critical situation.
But in Vivian's case, all of the letters and phone calls to a family member did not rectify the situation. Officials could not be more specific on who the person was.
"When we have a resident who's been evicted, there's a process that precedes it," said HHA Deputy Director Carmelo Garcia last week. He maintained that he and HHA Director Robert DiVincent followed all of the necessary steps in the eviction process.
If the Housing Authority deems the situation necessary, a case in which the resident "cannot sustain themselves," they call the county's Adult Protective Services (APS), said Garcia.
But the HHA is not required to call APS.
"We go the extra mile to help any residents in need of social services," said Garcia.
A few months before the eviction, there was an incident with a stove fire in Vivian's apartment in which no one was injured. The fire led management to believe that she may not be able to care for herself, and given those circumstances, management decided that APS should be notified of her eviction situation.
APS sent out a social worker to evaluate Vivian, but she refused their services, they say.
Once a person refuses service, APS suspends the investigation.
Out on the street
Vivian did not show up at her court date, and the Housing Authority sent police to escort her from the apartment.
According to sources, after the eviction, Vivian slept wherever she could.
Sometimes, it was the train station. Other times, it was the hospital.
Vivian was seen by other residents, homeless persons, and police officers roaming the streets and in the public housing developments.
She also has a sister in the projects who is ill, according to Vivian, whom she visited during the day.
Cummins reached out to her and helped her make contacts to get back into her apartment.
"We've been trying to get her back in her home," Cummins said at the time. "I feel Ms. [Vivian] needs to be back in her home."
She sent Vivian to City Hall to speak with John Pope, director of Human Services for the city to try to get some help getting back into her apartment.
Pope began working with the HHA to get her back into her apartment.
Also, her former neighbor went before the HHA board at their last monthly meeting to plead her case. The neighbor, who asked not to be named, told the HHA board that Vivian was a good neighbor and a good tenant who needed their help.
Changes in procedure to help in future
With the help of her minister, her neighbor, the HHA, and the city, Vivian is now back in her apartment after paying $1,800 in back rent.
Cummins thanked Garcia and said of the city, "They've been supportive."
But what of other people who, due to subtle mental illness, physical disabilities, or other problems, don't have a close relative or advocate to keep them from falling through the cracks?
"There are probably others we don't know of," Cummins said.
The HHA is now allowing for automatic deduction payments to be set up for residents who request them, which means anyone receiving benefits, such as Social Security, can pay the rent automatically rather than writing a check.
Garcia said, "We need to do a better job in verifying and updating senior citizen and disabled emergency contacts."
He said that the HHA will conduct verifications and updates to stay current during the annual renewal letter process.
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