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Columbus Resident Facing Eviction: 'Either Feed My Kids And Keep My Utilities On, Or Pay My Rent'

 Deana Gordon of Grove City stands in the hallways of the Franklin County Municipal Court, just outside the eviction courtroom, on July 30, 2021.
Michael Lee
Deana Gordon of Grove City stands in the hallways of the Franklin County Municipal Court, just outside the eviction courtroom, on July 30, 2021.

The CDC’s eviction moratorium expired on Saturday, is leaving many in Columbus scrambling to eviction court to figure out how to stay housed. WOSU spent a morning down at the Franklin County Municipal Court following a tenant going through the process of potentially getting evicted.

Deana Gordon sits in the hallway just outside the Franklin County Municipal Court’s eviction courtroom. She’s speaking to her attorney about the terms of agreement presented by her landlord in order to stay housed in her current apartment.

Gordon is one of several thousands of Central Ohioans facing eviction since the CDC’s eviction moratorium began, and one of many who have invoked the moratorium in the past year in order to stay housed. And now with the moratorium coming to an end, it’s her last chance to make an agreement with her landlord.

In January 2020, Gordon’s husband was in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed in his legs. A couple months later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With six children at the time, Gordon said she was terminated from her job when she didn’t want to leave her husband and kids.

“I had to make the decision, either feed my kids and keep my utilities on, or pay my rent," Gordon said. "So of course I let the rent go, because the rent was almost $1,000.”

But Gordon said her Grove City apartment still had maintenance issues and the landlord hadn’t made it wheelchair accessible for her husband. On top of that, she ended up becoming pregnant during the pandemic with her now three-month-old child, who she said is extremely ill.

Being unable to keep up with rent, her landlord decided to take her to eviction court.

“I don’t want to see my infant living in a car. I will not go to a homeless shelter, because I’m not getting my kids even sicker than what they are," Gordon said. "I just want to better myself, and I’m being pushed down. Bricks are being pushed on top of me.”

Burlington Capital, the owner of Gordon's apartment, declined to comment for the story.

Gordon approached the Legal Aid Society of Columbus in January this year. But by then, her landlord’s case against her had been continued around nine times in the past year.

Her current attorney Kaci Philpot said when an eviction case begins, they are generally continued and no judgement is made for evictions yet so tenants can seek rental assistance from groups like IMPACT Community Action. Gordon said she had been getting financial assistance from IMPACT to keep up with rent payments for 17 months.

When Philpot got the case from a colleague last month, she thought they were just going to look into why a recent payment from IMPACT had been delayed.

But in court, she said she was told that the landlord and the magistrate wanted to move forward with the eviction judgement against Gordon, even though IMPACT had already agreed to grant financial assistance.

“I filed a motion for stay under the CDC moratorium because she met the requirements, and we were granted a hearing on that motion to stay, which was scheduled for today (Friday),” Philpot said.

Philpot said she believes while Gordon’s landlord seemed to go back and forth on wanting to work things out, the landlord did have some sympathy for Gordon. She added that many wouldn’t usually wait this long for payment.

But despite all the issues and hearings Gordon faced, on Friday, she was able to come to an agreement with her landlord to stay in her apartment until November, which is when she will be moving into her new house in Obetz.

Philpot tells Gordon that with the new agreement, her landlord can no longer try and evict her unless she defaults on it. And if the landlord does try, Gordon should contact her.

Gordon said she’s hopeful that she’ll be able to pay from here on out, especially since she’s been working her new job as a warehouse worker.

Now a single mother taking care of two teens and a newborn, she said she looks forward to planting flowers outside her new home, and even hanging up Christmas lights when the time comes around.

But while the agreement today has taken the weight off her shoulders, it’s not over yet.

"It’s exciting, but in the same sense, your excitement doesn’t kick in until you get rid of the negative, and that’s my goal," she said. "To get rid of the negative and that way I can be more excited about moving and doing the things I have to do,”

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.