WHAT: Press Conference and Speakout
WHO: Woodlands Tenants and Supporters
WHERE: Woodlands Apartment Complex, Sandra Drive, Algiers
WHEN: 3 PM Wednesday, November 22

Contact: Soleil Rodrigue, Legal Coordinator, 504-717-7324

Algiers [New Orleans] Tenants Challenge Illegal Thanksgiving Evictions, Appeal to Prominent Landlord

At the start of the holiday season over 100 families are preparing to fight for their homes instead of preparing turkey and all the trimmings. Just a few days before Thanksgiving tenants of the Woodlands, an Algiers apartment complex, were greeted by constabl es with eviction notices in hand. Now the families, including many young children and disabled persons, are too worried to celebrate, fearing they may soon be homeless. Instead of shopping and cooking they spend their evenings in meetings, planning strategies to save their homes. Now they speak out on their struggle and strategy.

A delegation of tenants visited the Baton Rouge home office of their new landlord, the Johnson Properties Group, LLC, Tuesday to request a meeting and deliver a message on behalf of the residents. They shared documentation of the improvements made in the last several months and a strongly worded letter calling on the new owner to ‘do the right thing’ and honor the tenants’ residency, among other requests. The delegation was accompanied by Kwame Asante, Executive Director for the Louisiana NAACP, and Don Paul, the Chief of Operations of Common Ground, the New Orleans based non-profit that managed the property for the past fiv e months.

The trip was just one facet of the campaign developed by tenants and supporters, which includes everything from legal action to direct action. While the past few days have been stressful, organizing for the battle has brought tenants into a close-knit alliance. ‘I don’t have children,’ says tenant Dianne Stewart. ‘But I come over to every meeting so I can stand up and fight for those babies.’

This week tenants garnered the support of former relief volunteers nationwide as well as the backing of several organizations dedicated to social justice. Together they are appealing to the new owner, Soundra Johnson-Temple, a prominent Baton Rouge resident with a long history of leadership in social and human services, to meet with the tenants. ‘The affordable housing and community services begun by Common Ground are right in line with the values of Louisiana Health and Rehabilitation and the Harmony Center, two of Ms. Johnson-Temple’s best known endeavors,’ says Don Paul, Chief of Operations for Common Ground.

The group is certain that mediation, which is being offered freely by Community Mediation Services of New Orleans, can offer both sides a mutually beneficial solution to the conflict.