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!
Taura Brown in front of her home.