Christmas miracle: Preventing eviction

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Christmas miracle: Preventing eviction
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To the editor: 

Preventing an eviction with less than 24 hours notice is not easy. Actually, it’s almost impossible. On Dec. 14, 2023, we received a call at Christ Church from an Alexandria resident asking for help. This is not unusual, as we get roughly 20 to 40 calls per day from people asking for help with rent, utilities, food and eviction prevention. The call came in at 1:45 p.m. I asked the volunteer answering the phone to get her name and number and then I overheard him say, “So you’re being evicted tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.” 

A Lazarus volunteer returned her call at about 5:15 p.m. She had a writ of eviction with the posted time for 10 a.m. the next morning, when the Sheriff would arrive, ask her to leave and put a lock on her door. The possibility of stopping this seemed unlikely. She owed just over $1,800, but she also had a housing voucher. She would lose that voucher if she were evicted. The volunteer agreed to meet her at the rental office at 9:45 a.m. with a check in hand. 

I called her later to help her prepare for the actual eviction, knowing that the leasing office could still reject the check because there are often renters waiting, and that she should still pack up her most important things. I told her if the shelters were full, we would put her in a hotel until we could figure out something else. She was both relieved that someone had gotten back to her, but rightfully very frightened of becoming homeless. She felt certain they didn’t want her as a resident anymore, but we were going to give it a go. 

When I got home that evening, I emailed Alexandria 311, which connects directly to the mayor and City Council, to ask if there was something they could do. The eviction was 14 hours away. Between 7:35 p.m. and the next morning I received communications from two City Council members, the mayor, the attorney from Legal Services of Northern Virginia – who was on vacation in Germany – the sheriff, the deputy sheriff, the director of community services and the director of the Department of Community and Human Services all expressing concern for this resident. 

It turns out that staff from Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority and an Eviction Prevention Service Navigator at DCHS had been working tirelessly behind the scenes to prevent this eviction as well. 

At 10:35 a.m., the deputy sheriff emailed, “I’ve been informed that the management has notified the sheriff that the payment has been made, so the execution of the writ of eviction has been canceled.” 

The dedication of these staff and volunteers is remarkable. To change one life, to protect the vulnerable, to believe that we can do it together is miraculous. 

-Melanie Gray, MSW director, Outreach and Mission, Christ Church 

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