Why is Faith Fowler, the executive director of Cass Community Social Services, spending so much time and money in her efforts to evict Tiny Homes resident, Taura Brown? Fowler’s main projects include the CCSS shelter for people who are without housing, subsidized apartments for people with disabilities and the Tiny Homes program where people who are without housing or in danger of being without housing can become residents of their own Tiny Home. Fowler and CCSS rely on federal funds, state funds, city funds and donations to operate these programs.
Taura Brown qualified to live in a Tiny Home because she was diagnosed with Stage 5 kidney disease which required dialysis and meant she could no longer work full time. Fowler pushed the Tiny Homes program and raised funds by promising that people without housing could live in a Tiny Home and pay rent for 7 years and then they would own their own home. Taura Brown being able to set herself up, and establishing homeownership to build generation wealth for her son is what encouraged her to apply to live in a Tiny Home. Her rent was set at a subsidized, below market rate of $317 per month, she entered into a lease, moved into the home and took up residence there.
Taura Brown has all of her dialysis equipment in her Tiny Home and undergoes dialysis there several times each week. And Taura moved in with determination to work with her neighbors, help to make a neighborhood of Tiny Homes residents and others, and to become the owner of her own place. Taura started a newsletter, the Tiny Times, that provided information about available resources for her neighbors, and covered issues and concerns among Tiny Homes residents and issues in the neighborhood.
During a Tiny Homes resident meeting with Faith Fowler, Taura discovered that Fowler was attempting to evict one of her neighbors, a Tiny Homes resident. Taura Brown spoke up. She told Fowler that her plan to evict her neighbor was illegal, and based on retaliation. Taura, who thought the program was geared to homeownership, began demanding that the language in the leases for Tiny Homes residents acknowledge that the residents would own the homes after 7 years of monthly payments. This is what Fowler had promised residents, publicly told several media outlets and raised a lot of money from big pocket donors such as the Ford Motor Company. Fowler refused to modify their leases, which remained 1-year lease. Taura openly challenged Fowler in front of other residents and began questioning the intention of the program, which was a problem for Fowler. Taura’s neighbor who faced threats of eviction got to stay in their home, but Taura became Fowler’s new target. Fowler moved to evict Taura Brown in retaliation.
This is the heart of the matter. Faith Fowler is moving to evict Taura Brown because Taura Brown challenged Faith Fowler. Reverend Faith Fowler presents herself as a savior for people in Detroit who are without housing, and there are many, many people in Detroit who are without housing. The numbers of houseless people and families are growing. The government and the courts have no answers, so the rulers throw some money at Faith Fowler and others. The result of this system’s failure is that Faith Fowler and nonprofits continue to get millions to keep the growing houseless population quiet, under strict control, and less visible. This is part of protecting the racist narrative of ‘Detroit’s comeback,’ which isn’t a ‘comeback,’ but a continuation of the historical Black dispossession. This is targeting predominantly Black and Brown people, women, single mothers, working class people, LGBTQIA+ people, seniors, people with disabilities, and others. .
Taura Brown is neither quiet nor invisible. When Taura reached out for community support against the eviction, she started to work with Detroit Eviction Defense and others who were opposing evictions and standing up to nonprofits and their “leaders” who were looking down their noses and making money off of people in Detroit who were without housing or in danger of losing their housing.
Taura Brown and supporters reached out to residents at the CCSS shelter, people who were without stable housing. And the shelter residents responded with their own stories of terrible and unsanitary conditions, dangerous environments enabled by the staff, and silencing of resident’s complaints. People not only faced dangerous conditions, they were required to be in the shelter at a certain hour, out at a certain hour, without privacy, without decent food. Folks who attempted to speak out or defend themselves against attacks were evicted. And the residents got no help in finding stable housing, no computers available to look for housing or jobs, no help with transportation to look for places. No help. Stuck in the shelter that created more trauma, and more opportunities to be criminalized.
Residents at the CCSS buildings, shelter, and Tiny Homes began to come up with demands and a vision for what they needed. They met at a nearby park to get away from the fortress of cameras and security because they feared retaliation. They came up with a strong list of ideas, and created a petition that you can read. It was decided to deliver the petition and demands to the local HUD office, and have a picket outside. The next week Taura Brown received her first notice to appear in court.
The ruling elites and their government want houseless people to go away. The landlords and the courts and the banks and the government continue to evict people, continue to foreclose on homeowners, continue to raise rents so that workers in low wage jobs cannot afford to pay rent. This is a housing crisis, people can’t find housing they can afford, and the government and ruling class response is to fund nonprofit operators like Faith Fowler to provide “shelter” for some houseless people and families. But the conditions are awful and if you speak up or complain, Faith Fowler will evict you.It’s a concerted attempt to invisibilize, criminalize and silence people who are without housing.
Faith Fowler uses the strategy of racist silencing to attempt to control the residents of the CCSS shelter and the residents of the Tiny Homes. Faith Fowler is determined to silence Taura Brown because Taura Brown has supported other CCSS residents organizing and because Taura Brown has called out Faith Fowler’s failure and refusal to carry through on the promise that Tiny Homes residents would own their homes after 7 years. Fowler employs the racist attorney James Gromer to attempt to evict Taura, and the strategy is to prevent Taura from having an attorney and from defending against this retaliatory and racist eviction.
Gromer specializes in representing management companies in subsidized housing, nonprofits like Fowler at CCSS and other landlords. Gromer gets paid to evict poor people, people in subsidized housing, people with disabilities, Black people. In Taura’s case, Gromer failed to properly serve Ms. Brown with the eviction complaint and has made every effort to make sure that Taura could not defend herself in court.
Fowler has described the Tiny Homes project to numerous media outlets and donors as a project to develop homeownership and build generational wealth. Taura’s rent at $317 a month is subsidized housing, but Gromer and Fowler claim they don’t need any reason to evict Taura. They can evict her because they want to. Taura’s attorney argued that this is a retaliatory eviction because she made complaints about the way Fowler operated the Tiny Homes program and the shelter.
Gromer and Fowler filed a separate defamation complaint in circuit court against Taura Brown, because Taura told the truth about Faith Fowler and called her and CCSS as a continuation of systemic racism. The defamation suit by Gromer for Fowler is a strategy for slumlords, racist developers and operators like Fowler to attempt to silence tenants and homeowners and anyone who speaks out against oppression. This is an attempt at racist silencing, an attempt to say that Taura Brown, a Black woman in a Tiny Home, a woman with a disability, has no right to speak. No right to make complaints. No right to tell the truth.
Fowler through her attorney Gromer also told the 36th District Court judge in the eviction case, that they would try to mediate a settlement with Taura Brown and her attorney. As Detroit Eviction Defense predicted, nothing came out of the mediation. Detroit Eviction Defense saw the mediation as disingenuous from the beginning. After Gromer told the judge that mediation would resolve the case, his first move was not to schedule a mediation. Instead, he filed a defamation suit against Taura. This looked like an attempt to intimidate Taura. Then, Gromer and Fowler claimed no one could speak about the mediation (where no deal had been agreed upon), and Gromer filed a motion to hold Taura Brown and her attorney in contempt of court. Not because Taura gave details about the mediation, but because supporters called it like they saw it – the mediation looked like a joke and an attempt to intimidate Taura. As a result of the contempt motion, Taura Brown’s attorney was forced to withdraw from the case. Taura has now had to try to find an attorney to represent her in the eviction case in 36th District Court and the defamation case in Wayne County Circuit Court.
The strategy of Gromer and Fowler is to circumvent the right of Taura to defend herself against eviction and her right to speak out about conditions, through the eviction case, the defamation case, and the contempt motions that got rid of Taura’s attorney. This is racist silencing. This is an attempt at racist violence by the racist nonprofit operator Faith Fowler and her racist attorney James Gromer.
The Task Ahead
Taura Brown is fighting back against Fowler and Gromer’s attempts at racist silencing, racist violence, racist displacement. And Taura Brown is not alone. She is working with and supporting former CCSS shelter resident, Renita, and others who are organizing to get out of the shelter system and into stable housing. Taura has worked with and supported Geraldine Smith-Bey who took on a nonprofit which was attempting to retain ownership of Geraldine’s family home after tax foreclosure. Taura has worked with and supports Whitney Burney and others who have fought against slumlords who assault women and the Detroit cops who work with the slumlords to illegally evict Black women and their families. And Taura and her supporters are with the people of Detroit who are fighting to get back the $600 million in illegal property taxes stolen by the government from the homeowners and the people of Detroit. And with the people and families who were robbed by the government in the illegal taking of 100,000 homes in Detroit for tax foreclosure, based on the illegal property taxes.
Taura Brown and Detroit Eviction Defense are working with other tenants and homeowners in Detroit and metro Detroit who are self organizing, working together, speaking out and fighting together for their rights to stable housing and fair treatment. The tenants at 675 Seward and the Marlenor building in New Center have organized a tenants’ association and are fighting for their rights to a working elevator and fair treatment for all tenants. The tenants at Four Corners at Telegraph and Grand River are organizing together and demanding safe housing and basic repairs. The tenants at the Sapphire building in Southfield are organizing together to demand heat and regular water in their high rise. We need more tenants and homeowners and people who are without housing organizing together to fight the slumlords and the racists and the cutthroat developers who work with the government and the courts to gentrify and displace and rob the people of Detroit. The fight is on, people are self organizing and we ask you to organize and join together and join with us in this fight.
Taura Brown’s next hearing is June 1, 2022 at 11:05 am at 36th District Court. We ask you to join that court hearing by Zoom to show support for Taura Brown. The City of Detroit funds Faith Fowler and CCSS to carry out these racist attacks on Taura Brown and many others. We need that funding to go to people who live in the shelters and the Tiny Homes and the apartments, and we need that funding to go to finding stable housing for every person who needs it. And we demand that the city stop funding Faith Fowler and James Gromer and their policies of racist silencing, racist displacement and racist violence against the people of Detroit, against Black women and Black families.