Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Open Letter To DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann


Today American Friends Service Committee joined struggling DeKalb residents and members of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta to hold a press conference and deliver a letter to acting Sheriff Jeff Mann. The reason we were hand delivering the letter was because Sheriff Mann's office received about a dozen calls from us asking for a meeting to discuss the issue of heavy handed eviction procedures.


When we showed up to the door to deliver the letter we were stopped in the doorway. An officer told us that we could crowd the rather large, totally empty lobby because the building was open for peoples legitimate business. We explained that we were there for legitimate business. We were forced to share our concerns outside the building and deliver the letter to one of Jeff Mann's deputies. DeKalb County deserves better.

Below is the letter we delivered:


Dear Sheriff Jeff Mann,

We are deeply concerned at the alarming number of foreclosures and evictions in DeKalb County. A recent study by the Haas institute shows that DeKalb County is home to 6 of the top 15 Counties in the country for homeowners with underwater mortgages.

We know the Sheriff has little power over the foreclosure process but you do have a tremendous amount of power when it comes to the eviction process. Eviction can be one of the most humiliating, dehumanizing experiences a person ever faces and there’s simply no way one can make it a pleasant process.
We are aware that as recently as last week you had 30 Sheriff Deputy’s evict a struggling family simply because they had launched an online campaign against her mortgage servicer for wrongful foreclosure.

There are policy’s that are working in counties in Georgia and around the country to make the process easier to move through for struggling residents. We have attempted to create dialogue on these issues for several month with no success. For this reason we have decided to bring our recommendations right to your office and we truly hope you will not only consider them, but that you will follow up with us and our members.

Recommendations:
1.         Scheduled Evictions
Many counties and states around the country schedule evictions. We already know that evictors have to schedule eviction with moving companies, why not schedule evictions with the resident. As things stand now residents are subject to a knock on the door at any hour. Scheduled evictions allow residents the final reminder of the coming crisis at hand and gives them a last chance to secure their own belongings.

2.         No evictions after hours
After hours evictions can leave families with nowhere to go, no truck to rent, no storage facility to move things into. We know after hours evictions have been facilitated in DeKalb County. This is a cruel practice that no family should be subjected to. We ask that you commit to making evictions outside the hours of 9am-4pm against DeKalb County policy

3.         No evictions during extreme weather
Going through the evictions process means immediate homelessness for some, it also means all of your life belongings are put out on the street in the elements. Many counties will not do evictions in freezing, raining, or 100 degree weather.

4.         Costs paid by the evictor or a cap of public spending
Evictions can bring an enormous cost the county. The banks and private equity groups that do most of the evicting make an enormous profit. In many counties the evictor pays for the process, in some cases counties put a cap on what they will pay for.

5.         Relocation and 30 days storage for belongings
One of the most dehumanizing parts of the eviction process is having your things dumped in the front yard. Not only are families immediately faced with the prospect of having nowhere to go, they also have to protect their belongings. Furthermore this process is bad for the whole community, effecting the financial and spiritual value of the neighborhood. Many counties, and some states, require the evictor to pay property to be moved to a storage facility for at 30 days.

6.         Handle belongings with care
Often times peoples belongings are destroyed or stolen during the eviction process. We hope that as Sheriff you are able to facilitate stringer accountability for your constituent’s belongings during the eviction process.

7.         Referrals for housing services
Many facing evictions have now where to go. As a point of policy it would be fairly simple to provide those being evicted with a comprehensive list of service providers in the area.

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