Getting to the Root Causes: Finding Affordable Housing with a Section 8 Voucher with a limited timeline and housing choices in Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo, MI- The year 2021 continues to bring uncertainty to many households in Kalamazoo, specifically the home of Issa Smith. Ms. Smith and her family are facing an eviction that was supposed to happen on December 31, 2021, but because of the holiday the courts in Kalamazoo were closed on December 30, 2021.
The modest house located on the eastside of Kalamazoo, sits on the corner quiet and still, many not knowing or understanding that everyone is not celebrating the holidays, but in survival mode for basic human needs. Decent, affordable housing like in many communities is hard to come by.
Unfortunately, many folks in Kalamazoo County, specifically Kalamazoo that have a disability (invisible or physical) and houseless suffer in silence and have no immediate family support or advocates that will speak up for them or at least that kind of support that brings about the relief that is being requested. A few days ago, there was an article that was circulated in Kalamazoo on local media that covered a local mother and her families current situation regarding their housing.
Majyck Radio went to the home of Ms. Smith, after hosting a press conference on New Year’s Eve.
MJR: Ms. Smith, in your words, how would you summarize what is going on with you and your family?
Ms. Smith: “Illegally being evicted after discovering nonprofit landlord presidents fraud and refusing to let him and using my disabled family to commit further fraud against taxpayers and Hud Federally Funded programs. “I refused to pay David Artley $231 in his name illegally for a tree that I did not cause to lean towards the neighbors house”. “This is unjust and to be evicted in the dead of winter with disabled children and service dogs with no where else to go makes me feel like the most worthless mother ever.
MJR: For folks that are not familiar with you, how would you describe yourself to someone that doesn’t know you?
Ms. Smith: “I would describe myself as a woman who has been disadvantaged in every way possible but refused to give up and let the people that have torn me down win”. “I am kind hearted resilient and determined to stand up for the injustices of those who are voiceless and can not speak for themselves”.
MJR: “Why should you speak up for those that are voiceless? Isn’t it about self preservation? We are in a pandemic.
Ms. Smith: “Speaking up is the right thing to do”. “If I don’t speak up the next single mom that rents from Mr. Artley might not have the ability to fight back the way I have”. “My experience with predator individuals, they don’t care about anything but what they want, so if I don’t force myself to stand up for myself, even though it’s terrifying, I lose everything”. “Self preservation is the most dier part of this whole ordeal. “If I don’t protect my family no one else will, especially when we have a man who has made it his mission to destroy my disabled family and throw us out in the streets to freeze to death and he smiles about doing this to us because I exposed his fraud and defied him. “My family could lose everything”.
MJR: “Is this the first time you have been presented with a eviction from your current landlord”?
Ms. Smith: ” Yes”.
MJR: Do you think your current landlords perspective is representative of all landlords?
Ms. Smith: “No. I do not believe David Artley is a representative of all landlords. The landlord you met after the press conference is the complete opposite of Artley. I believe wholeheartedly that who you are as a landlord is who you are as a person. Money has a way of bringing out people’s true colors and intentions. I do not judge all landlords based on a bad one. I can honestly say I have met very few good people that are good landlords. I dream of the day I will live in a place, if I have to rent, that I will be blessed with a landlord that is caring and responsible and appreciates a tenant who respects their property. Maintains it and treats the home like their own with care like I have 503 Gilbert Avenue.
MJR: “You have children, two boys. “How are they holding up with the current situation and dealing with the pandemic as well”?
Ms.Smith: “One of my sons even came to me and said mom, “you know I love you ,but I can’t take it anymore. “If we end up homeless again and we did everything right I’m….(MJR edited for audience) “So not only am I facing freezing to death with my family outside I have to watch my sons so he’s ok also that’s a lot for one person.
MJR: Sorry to hear this is challenging for your children. Do we need to stop the interview?
Ms. Smith: No, it will be fine”.
MJR: I know you are aware of many youth supports in Kalamazoo, but will put a link to a variety of youth services as the end of our interview.
Ms. Smith: “Thank you”.
MJR: “Kalamazoo County has literally thousands of nonprofit that cover a large number of social needs. From your experience, can you give our readers a short summary of the nonprofit industrial complex from your perspective?
Ms. Smith: “The nonprofit industrial complex sucks. I have only dealt with five legit nonprofits in Kalamazoo in the last 18 years. The majority of nonprofits are so corrupt they don’t help the people they receive funding for. The other sickening part of nonprofits is that many nonprofit presidents make more sitting on their butts than a hard working individual and all they have to do is “twiddle” their thumbs. They get to line their pockets with taxpayers money . I learned one very important thing dealing with nonprofit landlords and there presidents not all are the same. Some are better. Some are worse”.
MJR: What organizations have you reached out to?
Ms: Smith: “I reached out to the Housing Commission, the city and county employees, Housing Resources, Integrative Services of Kalamazoo,Coalition for the Homeless, The Salvation Army, The YWCA, MSHDA , HUD and DHS. So far no one can help. Commissioner Rey did come to the press conference on New Years Eve. David Artley and the Mayor have convinced everyone I destroyed the house and that I will never find another place to rent in Kalamazoo ever again”.
MJR: Have you reached out to others in Kalamazoo’s city leadership or housing/housing resource providers?
Ms. Smith: ” I don’t feel that a single official cares about what David Artley is doing and that(this sends a message that to those that may be feeling devalued and “thrown away”) the officials can harm, defraud and destroy lives and it’s ok because their abusing their positions of power”. I would like to highlight that I reached out to all of the officials and no one responded or cared. They are elected into office to stop their constituents from being harmed, but they are not. Vulnerable populations experience abuse of power everyday are just supposed to roll over and be abused and stay silenced and not fight back and if we do we are blacklisted and ran out of Kalamazoo to keep us hidden voiceless and out of sight”.
MJR: Do you have a place to go if the eviction process moves forward?
Ms. Smith: No I do not. I’m losing my voucher the 29th of this month because of Artley also and this illegal retaliatory eviction because I can’t find a decent landlord that will except it. That’s why I have to raise money for a hotel. There is only one local hotel that can accommodate my service dogs and family . A hotel room is $110 to $190 a night for an average rated hotel.That’s $3,300 a month that’s $2,610 more for a small studio apartment style hotel room than the whole house I live in.
MJR: Ms. Smith, what can folks reading this or hearing about this do to support?
Ms. Smith: My ask is to raise money for an attorney and possible angel investors people that see our story and believe we are worth investing in.
Get a safe, habitable, suitable home of our own .
Help raising money to keep us in a hotel.
We need a reliable vehicle. If there’s someone that has a van or tahoe that they would love to gift or at a price that could be raised. I don’t want people to give us their junk. We have respect.
We haven’t done anything wrong so we don’t want to be considered a charity case that deserves less than any housed person.
People that will help provide for my family, it takes a village.
Find other people David Artley has intimidated to give him money for things that are the landlords responsibility.
Others that may have experienced random visits to their homes that are unannounced and demanded to do an inspection of the property at early hours in the morning or late at night.
If any other tenants have been mistreated and held responsible for side payments added into their tenant rent share. Are there things that are not being fixed in their rentals.
MJR: Thank you Ms. Smith for your courage and time. You and your family are dealing with a great deal and appreciate you sharing.
Ms. Smith: Thank you and you’re welcome.
Please click the links to below for additional information and how to support.
Click Smith Facebook fundraiser
December 15, 2021 Public Media Network coverage
December 29, 2021 Mlive
October 2018 Mlive