Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) a social service non-profit in Detroit, Michigan has brought an eviction action against tiny homes resident Taura Brown. CCSS runs a large housing operation that consists of a shelter (the Scott Building), several Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) buildings, and a series of 250-400 square-foot Tiny Homes.
Brown, who is a participant in the Tiny Homes Program has lived in her home for over a year and a half. The Tiny Homes program promises homeownership to residents after 7 years of occupancy. Residents are required to make payments on their homes, attend monthly meetings, volunteer 8 hours per month and receive financial coaching. Brown applied to live in a tiny home after being diagnosed with kidney disease. Brown wanted to secure low-cost permanent housing in case she was not able to work in the future. Brown was selected, moved in and made on-time monthly payments of $317 and followed the rules accordingly.
So why is CCSS moving to evict Brown? Brown, who has a background in property management and real estate has been very vocal about preferential treatment of white residents, repeated and willful Fair Housing violations, crime in the Tiny Homes neighborhood, residential home repairs taking too long, and inconsistencies and outright lies with the Tiny Homes program. Brown has also been vocal about intrusive and unauthorized tours conducted by security staff, as well as unnecessary and intrusive surveillance of tiny homes residents and their guests. Brown also firmly objected to Executive Director Reverend Faith Fowler’s attempt to illegally evict another resident. In addition, Brown brought attention to the year-long leases tenants sign which do not mention home ownership of any kind which is in direct contradiction to all the Tiny Home Program advertising done by Fowler.
On January 7, 2021, Brown emailed Fowler asking for her new housing paperwork. Fowler did not respond. Upon receiving a call from a CCSS board member and telling him that the taxes on her home had not been paid, Brown was emailed a cease and desist and advised that she was being evicted.
On June 26, 2021, Brown, and supporters from Detroit Eviction Defense (DED) and Detroit Will Breathe (DWB) hosted a housing justice rally and BBQ at her home. Activists, CCSS shelter residents, and neighbors came to show support. Shelter residents talked about the deplorable living conditions at the Scott Building and others brought their stories about evictions from PSH buildings.
At the time of this press release, the conditions at the CCSS shelter are unhealthy and unsafe. Women have been harassed and attacked, families do not have privacy, mold is painted over for each inspection, and appears to have just one working shower. There are no resources for residents to get real access to permanent housing. Residents receive outdated Section 8 housing lists, there is no internet, no computers or transportation to visit houses. See the petition circulated by CCSS shelter residents and supporters: please sign it and circulate it.
On September 9, 2021, Brown, a resident from the CCSS shelter and supporters protested outside the HUD office in Detroit demanding a stop to Brown’s eviction, a stop to Fair Housing violations at CCSS, and safe and dignified housing for the residents of the shelter.
On September 23, 2021, Brown, a resident from the shelter, and supporters from DED met with Michael Polsinelli and Keith Hernandez from HUD. That same day, David Sands, a reporter from Model D reached out to Fowler regarding Brown’s eviction. According to Sands, “I spoke briefly to Fowler on the phone today and she said CCSS had not sent you an eviction notice.” Immediately thereafter, Fowler’s attorney proceeded with the eviction action against Brown in clear retaliation for the protest at HUD and calls from Sands.
Brown was not served with the initial court notice and complaint and only discovered her court date after making daily checks to the 36th District Court’s website. Brown suspected Fowler would retaliate against her because of the protest at HUD and calls from Sands and she was right.
On October 7, 2021, the first hearing for CCSS v Taura Brown took place in front of Judge Alicia Jones-Coleman. CCSS, represented by two lawyers, one of whom is high-profile criminal attorney Todd Perkins. The hearing was adjourned.
On November 1, 2021, supporters attended the Detroit Continuum of Care (CoC) board meeting. During public comment, CCSS Director of Government and Community Affairs/social worker Patricia McCaffrey-Green made false allegations against Brown claiming that Brown was not paying rent and implying the eviction was due to nonpayment. In response, Brown posted a letter from CCSS attorney James Gromer advising Brown NOT to make payments on her home and a screenshot of an escrow account with almost $3,000 in it.
Cass Community Social Services receives millions of dollars in donated and government funds to provide services and housing to people who are experiencing homelessness in Detroit. The services are not adequate. Residents are not receiving the help they need and residents are being wrongfully evicted or asked to leave their homes. CCSS is not doing its job. What CCSS is doing is being used as Fowler’s personal piggy bank for real estate ventures, legal expenses and poorly executed business ventures.
Residents of the Tiny Homes, CCSS shelters, and PSH apartments need to organize together to defend themselves against Fowler’s retaliatory practices. Residents need a tenant union where they can organize themselves independently of the CCSS executive director and staff. CCSS profiting from poverty must stop! Every person deserves good, safe, dignified housing
Brown’s next hearing will be November 18, 2021 at 10:00 am in 36th District Court. The hearing will be on ZOOM before the Honorable Alicia Jones-Coleman and broadcast on YouTube. Come show support for Brown and help stop this unnecessary and retaliatory eviction!
The Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) Tiny Homes program advertised itself as a means for low-income Detroit residents to own a home. Community members believed that they were a part of a rent-to-own program. The program told participants that they would pay $1 per square foot of a tiny home each month. The CCSS website states, “At first, the residents will rent the homes. Anyone who remains for seven years will be given the opportunity to own the home and property.” Taura Brown, resident, and a donor, was stunned to learn that Rev. Faith Fowler, Executive Director, and CCSS would be reneging on their original terms, and she would not be a homeowner. Instead, she was being evicted.
Earlier this year at a meeting with Tiny Homes residents, Rev. Fowler announced that she would be evicting a resident because he had his bike stolen, his home broken into and had a car repossessed. The resident spoke up for himself and Taura backed him up that a resident being robbed is not a cause for eviction. Fowler ended up dropping the eviction of the four-year resident and instead is moving to evict Taura Brown. Fowler and her lawyer claim they don’t need cause to evict, and they can do whatever they want to the residents. Truth is they are retaliating against Brown because she spoke up, told residents their rights, and opposed Fowler trying to run things like a dictator. Taura and every resident has the right to speak up and join together to defend their interests and their rights.
Brown was diagnosed with stage five kidney disease and, after becoming disabled, began looking for affordable living options. Brown, like other residents, decided to join the program believing that she would eventually own her home. Though she says the program was flawed, they have now gone too far.
Taura has been vocal about her concerns with staff but has seen no effort to make improvements. The Tiny Homes neighborhood has dealt with issues of crime in the neighborhood, invasion of residents’ privacy, fair housing violations, fiscal irresponsibility, and unfair treatment among residents. Before Taura was accepted into the Tiny Home program, she had to be interviewed by all the Tiny Home residents. None of the white residents have had to go through this process. This is just one example of the institutional racism that Fowler is embedding into the program. Taura has never been late with rent, has met all the program requirements, but is facing eviction. This is clear retaliation.
To date, not a single resident has received a title or land contract that the CCSS program advertised. Reverend Faith Fowler told residents that they are just renters and do not own the property. All residents of the Tiny Homes deserve safe, fair housing, and for CCSS to put in writing that residents will get the deed to their homes after 7 years as promised. This is something common we are seeing in Detroit – developers, non-profits, and opportunistic pastors advertising low-income housing or a program to provide homeownership, but they don’t deliver. They cash in, and create more housing instability. As Taura says, “Faith Fowler is claiming to create opportunities for homeless people, but she clearly has no problem creating homelessness!”
Join Us: Thursday 2pm 7700 2nd Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
Picket is back on! A while back Detroit Eviction Defense put a call up for a picket, and we postponed it while Rev. Ross agreed to come back to the table to negotiate. We were excited to learn that Rev Ross finally agreed to sell Geraldine her home and land back for $14,200 and to complete the promised repairs to the front porch, roof, and back porch, as well as paying the back taxes owed.
However, after weeks of silence, Geraldine finally heard from the Storehouse of Hope lawyer only to learn that not only had he not drafted an agreement in writing, he didn’t even know a meeting had occurred. Storehouse of Hope’s lawyer is now saying they plan on selling the house to Geraldine (even though Geraldine has still seen no paperwork), but the price may go up if the repairs are more.
These delay tactics are standard practice for Joan Ross. What is alarming is that Ross also threatened more than once to sell the house out from under Geraldine or to evict her when the moratorium is lifted. We are concerned these delays are more than just procedural but Ross has returned to radio silence.
Join us Thursday, June 10th for a picket of the Storehouse of Hope Community Land Trust and it’s Director Joan C. Ross. We will be picketing the offices of Storehouse of Hope, Community Radio WNUC and the North End Woodward Community Coalition, which all have the same address. For more information check out our Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DetroitEvictionDefense
We need to hold Storehouse of Hope and Joan Ross accountable and give Geraldine and her family back her home!
The article above also has revealing quotes from Reverend Ross about this land trust that was funded by community donations.
Reverend Ross states, “This is not a justice situation. This is really, if you want to say it, a tenant-landlord matter.”
She goes on to threaten to evict Geraldine once the CDC moratorium ends, “We can always sell our property to somebody else,” Ross said. “Or wait for the eviction moratorium to be lifted and go that route.”
We invite anyone involved in community work in the North End, or anyone connected to Storehouse of Hope to attend the picket, talk with Geraldine, her neighbors and supporters.
The Trust between Ross who owns the Land has been broken with the Community. Give the Land back to Geraldine who is Trusted by the Community.