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Eviction of 83-year-old woman draws protest

Protesters use colorful costumes to call attention to their cause Tuesday, as they gather on a sidewalk in front of the Sacramento Manor senior apartments to protest the eviction of 83-year-old Dorothy Morris.
Protesters use colorful costumes to call attention to their cause Tuesday, as they gather on a sidewalk in front of the Sacramento Manor senior apartments to protest the eviction of 83-year-old Dorothy Morris. hsangree@sacbee.com

An effort to keep an 83-year-old woman from being evicted from her home during the holidays escalated Tuesday as protesters from local and statewide tenant advocacy groups staged a protest in front of Sacramento Manor senior apartments in the city’s south area.

“Stop the eviction!” they chanted. Some of the two to three dozen protesters wore red-and-white Santa hats. One was dressed in a green mask as the Grinch, the Dr. Seuss character who stole Christmas. They marched in front of the green metal fence surrounding Sacramento Manor, a collection of low-rise tan buildings on neatly landscaped grounds.

Joining them was Dorothy Morris, the tenant at the center of the controversy. Last week, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Christopher E. Krueger ordered the octogenarian, who represented herself in court, to be out by Jan. 2.

“I appreciate all the support so much,” Morris said during the protest. She wore a blue coat and cap, her glasses perched on her forehead. “I thought I was all alone.”

Managers and owners of the 260-unit senior-living complex near Florin Road and 24th Street in southwest Sacramento could not be reached Tuesday. Morris had been renting her apartment on a month-to-month lease.

Apartment manager Jessica Dawn Gering testified last week that the complex had decided to get rid of all tenants who who pay their rent with federally subsidized Section 8 housing vouchers for administrative reasons. Allison Wopschall, the Walnut Creek attorney who is representing Sacramento Manor, told the judge that government rent checks were often slow to arrive.

Krueger would not allow Morris to present evidence on what she says is the real reason Sacramento Manor wants her out. She said she complained in April that her apartment was too cold and withheld $150 in rent to buy space heaters.

“A lousy $150, and they’ve been trying to evict me ever since,” she said Tuesday. “I want this place straightened out. I’m fighting for everybody. We’re all cold.”

Krueger took the eviction case away from a jury following a 90-minute trial and issued an unusual directed verdict that required Morris to move out in a little over two weeks.

Tuesday’s protest was organized by San Francisco-based advocacy group Tenants Together. Dean Preston, the group’s executive director, said Morris’ situation is part of a larger trend of California landlords ridding themselves of Section 8 tenants.

Several groups have been trying to find Morris replacement housing, but her physical and financial limitations make it difficult, Preston said.

“It’s not easy to find affordable housing, and here she’s affordably housed and being evicted,” he said.

David Mandel, a Sacramento attorney who has represented seniors in housing cases, said state law doesn’t prevent landlords from evicting Section 8 tenants or others without just cause. Some cities, including San Francisco and Berkeley, have “just-cause eviction” ordinances, but Sacramento does not.

That leaves landlords free to try to gentrify their complexes by evicting low-income tenants, Mandel said.

“They think they can get more rent and get rid of Section 8 tenants,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191.

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