Mayor Dwayne Warren’s waiting room didn’t have enough chairs to accommodate Maguedala Filocsaint’s family.
In an act of desperation, the 41-year-old mother and her five children stormed Orange City Hall this morning to beg for help finding housing after being evicted from their two-bedroom apartment where she has lived for three years. Her nephew came with them, carrying her youngest child, two-year-old Ellerie, in his arms.
“I don’t want to sit on the street with the kids,” Filocsaint said.
Carrying luggage, hand-written signs on poster board asking for help, and a duffel bag of paperwork documenting two years of court decisions, code violations, and her eviction notice, Filocsaint arrived at 10 a.m. and crowded into the narrow elevator, riding it to the second floor to wait outside the mayor’s office. Neither he nor his secretary were there.
Filocsaint said she has been pleading her case to the mayor for several months that the apartment unit was inhabitable and she needed help with relocation. She said she has withheld paying rent until the issues in her apartment were repaired.
“I’ve called him nine times this morning,” Filocsaint said. “The mayor knows the story.”
While Filocsaint was waiting for someone to assist her, she leafed through the stack of code violations for her apartment at 756 Vose Street that document faulty plumbing, electrical issues, and infestation. She also has photographs showing clumps of scurrying cockroaches on her bathroom walls. Her oldest son, Cklyfe, told the Four Oranges that for a few months they had to go to the bathroom in buckets.
For months and months, Filocsaint has also been begging for help at City Council meetings. Last night, she and her son made one final plea to her elected officials during the public comment section. “What you’re doing is a little bit evil because me and my family are in an apartment building that’s uninhabitable,” Cklyfe said. “The ceiling’s collapsing, there’s mold in the bathroom — it’s everywhere.”
Only one of the sitting legislators — mayoral candidate Quintavia Hilbert — reached out to her. Despite that phone call and her promises to help, she still didn’t have any place to go.
Last night’s council meeting was notable both for its in-fighting and criticisms about the rampant use of tax abatements for large-scale, luxury developments that residents believe has robbed millions from the city’s coffers while homeowners are saddled by rising taxes. Despite these public condemnations, the council approved a 23-year tax abatement for a development project at 92 South Main Street. None of the council members in attendance commented on Filocsaint’s situation.
Around 11 a.m., Chris Mobley, the city’s deputy planning director, arranged for Filocsaint to speak to the mayor over the phone but he would not allow the Four Oranges to be in the same room when it happened.
“I’m going to ask you to leave because I want to have a private conversation,” he said.
The children were growing hungry and restless without a place to stay. One of the secretaries gave them some candy to tide them over.
The Four Oranges asked Victoria, 9, what she was hoping for. “To go home,” she said.
Filocsaint’s sister, Michelene Romun, who had come to bring the children food, noticed that her sister was in the meeting alone without the Four Oranges in the room. “They didn’t let you stay?” Romun said. “I told her to make sure you stay.”
“So many times she comes here — they don’t do nothing,” Romun continues. “If you’re there, they will do the right thing.”
When Filocsaint came out of the locked room to get some documents from her file and to settle down her two-year-old, who was crying, she said they had given her the address for the county welfare office where she could apply for temporary rental assistance.
Filocsaint has until nine o’clock tonight before she is locked out of her apartment. She said she is determined to find a place to stay before then. “I don’t want the kids to see them lock the door,” she said.
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