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News » Press » 15 Oct 15

A Member of the Theodora Rescue Committee Speaks

October 15, 2015

We at the Tenants Union are shocked at the allegations that tenants are not well-served here at the Tenants Union in regards to our campaign against the displacement of over a dozen low-income tenants at the Theodora apartment homes. A member of the campaign and Theodora Rescue Committee, now a Tenants Union Board Member says:

“I’m Shawn Walton, a former resident of the Theodora. I moved there in late 2011 after transferring out of a skilled nursing facility where I’d lived since having both legs amputated in 2010. The Theodora’s accessibility, kitchen and housekeeping staff, and proximity to bus routes were crucial to my return to a more independent lifestyle, post injury. I became aware of and involved with the Tenants Union after the Volunteers of America decided that they were going to sell the property and that all residents would have to relocate.

A group of residents who were opposed to the sale were contacted by TU organizer Eliana Horn, who worked with us on a variety of fronts to halt the sale of the property, and raise public awareness of our situation. We attempted to meet with VOA representatives, did meet with the mayor’s office, tried to have the Theodora recognized as a landmark for its history with the VOA, held press conferences, marched to protest purchaser John Goodman for his past and continuing treatment of tenants on property he’d acquired, and even filed a lawsuit.

Ultimately we were unsuccessful in blocking the sale of the Theodora and were forced to relocate. Thanks to the actions of the TU, the VOA was forced to provide many tenants with relocation assistance to help cover the costs of moving. Residents who’d moved out when the impending sale was first announced, prior to the TU becoming involved, never received any assistance. I’m grateful to the TU for giving me a voice in a struggle where previously I’d had none.”

The Rescue Committee and the Tenants Union’s actions against the VOA’s profit-driven sale of the Theodora were completely in the interests of the tenants, and all Tenants Union actions were performed at their request. Our work with the tenants of the Theodora resulted in increased relocation assistance and opportunities for advocacy. Most importantly, this campaign voiced the tenants’ desire for preservation over displacement. Though the Volunteers of America claim that displacement was the only way to look out for the tenants’ “well-being”, we contend the best way to care for tenants is to ask them what they want and make honest strides to deliver on those requests. We urge the Volunteers of America to reconsider their misinformed attack of the Tenants Union and Theodora tenants and to re-commit to their mission to serve all low-income individuals – regardless of the profits to be had.