Community Organizes to Reclaim West Baltimore Resident’s Home
Beatrice Johnson of Sandtown Winchester struggles to reclaim her house of 17 years after it was sold for a $2,100 unpaid water bill
Eddie Conway: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore.
I’m sitting here in a homeowner’s house on Pressman Street, and I’m interested in her story and what’s happening to her and her home as a results of a water bill in Baltimore City. Could you tell me what happened? How did you find out about your situation with this house, and what’s happened since then?
B. Johnson: I’ve been out of work now for like five years; I’m on disability now. But when I lost my job, I was out of work and I was struggling for awhile. And then I finally got my little money from Social Security, and I was able to make a lump sum payment on the water bill. But I couldn’t pay it all, so they put me on a program.
I was paying my monthly payment; not the quarterly payment but, you know, I was paying the payment plan that they put me on, had not realized that I had also paid my quarterly payment, too, which was … I really couldn’t afford it. So I got back in the hole again.
So I applied for the hardship program, and the lady said she got my hardship papers and everything, but I never heard no more from her. Next thing I heard, the lady from The Sun paper, the one that told me my house was in tax sale, I hadn’t even known. I didn’t even know my house was in tax sale until she told me because I haven’t heard anything from the water company. They haven’t sent me no letter; they haven’t sent me anything. But I’m really grateful that she did see my … came to me and tell me. The reason why she told me is because I went to look for help at the Sandtown Winchester Center up here on Baker Street to see if I could get some kind of resources to help me. But they didn’t have no funds or anything to help me, but they kind of like guide you to some kind of resources. So I just filled out a survey and she contacted me through the survey, and that’s how I found out that my house was in tax sale.
Eddie Conway: So I’m understanding that they sold your house already for $2,100?
B. Johnson: Now, I knew I had to pay my bill, but I didn’t know I was up against the wall like that, so fast. And then I could understand how anybody could be homeless. It’s easy to be homeless. If you fall short and they’re ready to put you out for $2,000, c’mon man. I’ll be out in the street. Where I’m a go at if I get put out my house? Nowhere. I don’t have nowhere to go. I’ll be put out, and I try hard to … I’ve been here for almost 17 years. It’s hard, you know. It’s not easy out there and I’m not no young chick no more, so it’s hard. And I’m on disability and I don’t make no lot of money.
Eddie Conway: This is something that we need to look at and find out why someone can be paying a mortgage on a house for 17 years, and then for a mere $2,000, a city would authorize selling that house, putting that person out in the street, making that person homeless, and then who cares. This is something that concerns us and it should concern everybody in America when you talk about living in the richest country in the world. What’s your next steps in this?
B. Johnson: Well, my next step is to talk to the realtor who bought my property and see how much fees I have to pay to redeem my property. That’s all I can do because I can’t afford to lose my home. I’ll be in worse shape if I lose my home. I have nowhere else to go. I’ll be in the streets. That’s why you never can look at a person because you don’t know a person’s story; you can never judge a person. You don’t know nobody’s story. Don’t nobody want to be homeless. Nobody choose to be homeless; it just happens to them.
Eddie Conway: Miss Johnson, you’re here in front of the water department, and so you intend to go and pay your water bill and reclaim your house?
B. Johnson: Yes, I am …
Eddie Conway: Okay, let’s …
B. Johnson: … so this is a happy day.
Eddie Conway: Okay. This is a happy day. All right. Okay, so the community came forth and helped you?
B. Johnson: Yes, yes. People do care. Some people still care, and it’s always nice to have caring people. So this help you to know that everyone doesn’t have a broken heart.
Eddie Conway: We can’t go in with you with the camera, but we will be here when you come back.
B. Johnson: Thank you.
Eddie Conway: Okay, you say your sister’s in there already with the same problem and trying to save her house because of the water bill?
B. Johnson: And it looks like it’s making it worser for the older people.
Eddie Conway: It is.
B. Johnson: The older people, you know; it’s hard. Them the ones that suffering and working all they life, but how it’s hard for them. It’s like where I live at, I’ve got to move because they no longer wants to take the vouchers, so that mean … I’m 63 years old; I’ve got to find somewhere to live and I’m not in the best of health.
You talking about me? Hi everyone, this is Beatrice again. I know y’all tired of hearing from me, but I just want to give you good news. Everything is fine now. I redeemed my home and everything is fine, and I love you all, guys. And continue to pray, and continue to have good hearts because we all need the care that others give. Thank you so very much, with much love.
You know, I really didn’t want to go on the air and tell my story. But after I thought about it, my story can help other people. And that’s the main thing, to get them to stop doing what they doing because this is just taking advantage of people when you just do what you want to do and it’s probably okay. But it’s not okay. That’s why the city look like it do now. No homeowners, all these building up … it’s just a mess, and that’s why.