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The Eviction

Homelessness is an issue for many local families.

It seems that every other day, Mount Vernon residents get a solicitation from a local charitable group. They come at a rapid rate, the galas seem to be one after the other and it’s easy to get a little cynical and just toss out the solicitation. But the people who work in these organizations have chosen to help the less fortunate, and each family they serve has a story. For example, it might be a family that is being evicted from their home.

It was the summer of 1962 and I was a 13 year-old baseball player who had just been selected to the town’s All Star team. West Islip, New York was a relatively middle-class town with one shopping center, a high school and a few churches. My father had abandoned our family a few months earlier and my mother, two younger siblings and I lived in modest rental house. I raised rabbits and the mother, Thumper, had just given birth to seven babies.  We set up a temporary home for them in the basement. 

One Saturday in July, our All Star team won the Suffolk County championship and, on the way back, the parents driving cars decided to have an impromptu celebratory “motorcade” through West Islip. There were two convertibles in the group and I jumped in the front one. We drove through the town, pretending it was a ticker tape parade although just a handful of (confused) residents were out in the street. We just imagined the confetti sticking to our hair and the millions of supporters cheering us on.    

When it was time to end the celebration, the motorcade steered first towards my house. As we made the right hand turn onto my street, I noticed a big pile in my front yard.  There were some neighbors standing next to it, mulling about. As we got closer, I still could not decipher what it was when I heard the driver of the car say “Oh God,” my stomach started to churn.  The motorcade stopped and the team looked at the contents of my house.  All of our furniture had been tossed out on the lawn and there were big yellow signs that said “Notice of Eviction” in bold, black letters. I had no idea what the word meant. 

Barely able to breathe, I avoided eye contact with my teammates and quickly jumped out of the car to inspect the pile. My teammates mercifully moved on and, without changing out of my uniform, I started rummaging through the pile.  My favorite desk was in pieces, the living room couch was ruined, our cheap “paintings of the Masters” were unrecognizable and my baseball card collection was scattered about. Ultimately, I ran inside the house and headed for the basement.  Thumper and her babies were gone.  I never saw them again.  That next week, I skipped school, figuring it would take that long for the embarrassment to wear off. 

But it never did.

Last week, I passed through the Audubon Estates trailer camp and there was a pile of furniture along the road, clearly the contents of one of the trailers.  But what I learned in 1962 was that when you are evicted from your home, you lose more than earthly goods.  You are robbed of a piece of your childhood and your dignity. Your poverty is on public display for all to see.

Organizations like , and others are working hard to help families in those situations. 

The next time you get that solicitation and think about tossing it out, think again. Then write a check. 

Andrea June 06, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Thank you for sharing, eviction is an ugly reality. What is really awful is some landlords use eviction as a way to make money, churn people in and out of rentals and keep deposits. I know a family that just went through an eviction, and the 8 year old son is having significant anger issues, no one should wonder why.
STEPHEN June 06, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Ron - An emotional and touching issue you wrote about. Stephen and Gloria
Jody June 06, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Let's not vilify landlords. What should they do when a tenant can't pay the rent for months and months? Poverty, job loss, illness etc. can destroy a family that lives from month to month or even day to day. It's wonderful that we have county agencies and community groups that can help people who find themselves shockingly and suddenly homeless.
chris wilkens June 06, 2012 at 09:23 PM
This is why we need organizations that help families. What a terrible thing for a young man to witness
T Ailshire June 07, 2012 at 02:23 PM
They can respectfully move the (former) tenant's belongings, rather than dumping them in the road/yard/trash. Their lack of respect is what breaks my heart here, not the fact they must evict people.
Ron Fitzsimmons June 07, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Jody: I did not vilify the landlord, did I?
Jody June 12, 2012 at 02:38 PM
No Ron, the first commenter did. Also, if belongings are put on the curb in a manner that damages the furniture/etc. or in the rain that's very bad but I think the removal happens quickly because it has to happen while the sheriff serving the eviction notice is there. I hate to propose a new law but maybe we need one to prevent damage to belongings during eviction. It's horrible enough to be evicted, you shouldn't have to suffer the loss of your earthly possessions as well.
Veronica April 26, 2013 at 01:13 PM
Anyone know who the guy is that made a little home in front of the Tulley Gate by Burger King near Fort Belvoir? I see he has a mailbox now.

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