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When a mother and her autistic son are evicted: The story of Bessie and Devonte Taylor

January 29, 2015

by Yael Chanoff, Poor News Network

When a mother and her autistic son are evicted, where are they supposed to turn? For Bessie Taylor of Monterey County, every option has come up short. Now, she’s worried about what comes next.

Bessie Taylor and her autistic son, Devonte

Bessie Taylor and her autistic son, Devonte

Bessie and Devonte Taylor are staying in a motel, but come Friday, the money for that will run out.

“I don’t want to cry in front of him. I don’t want him to see that I’m hurting. But he knows. He’s going, ‘Are you OK? Is it my fault why we moved?’ He thinks it’s his fault that we had to move. He asks me every day, ‘Is it because of me?’ No, it’s not because of you,” Bessie said.

So whose fault is it? It seems like a mix of negligence on behalf of the Taylors’ landlord and the Housing Authority of Monterey County.

Bessie has lived in her home, Section 8 housing in Salinas, for 22 years. She moved in with her son Devonte when he was nine months old. Now 22, Devonte’s life revolved around their home – there, he could come and go safely, make food on his own and relax in his room watching movies.

“Movies are his thing,” Bessie said.

But in June, Bessie learned for the first time that she and Devonte have the right to “reasonable accommodation” for the needs of public housing residents with disabilities through the Fair Housing Act.

Taylor began the application process.

“I got letters from the teacher; I got letters from the doctor,” she said. She completed the paperwork, and filed her request for reasonable accommodation Sept. 27.

By that time, her landlord – who had already been eyeing a raise in rent – came to expect the money from the “reasonable accommodation” expense as a condition for the Taylors staying in their home.

But the money didn’t come. A month after putting in her request, Taylor hadn’t heard an answer.

After Bessie’s calls and visits, with the help of her friend Pamela, a local community advocate, she finally heard back from the Housing Authority. But the accommodation they offered wasn’t enough for the landlord.

Suddenly, after 22 years, Bessie and Devonte Taylor were being evicted.

When a mother and her autistic son are evicted, where are they supposed to turn? For Bessie Taylor of Monterey County, every option has come up short. Now, she’s worried about what comes next.

“That’s the only home he’s ever known,” Bessie said.

She was made to pay for her own moving truck and storage expenses, as the Taylors moved their lives into a storage unit. They began looking for another place to live – a frustrating process, as the demand for Section 8 housing far exceeds the supply.

They still haven’t found anywhere. Now, they’re staying at a motel, paid for in part by Poor Magazine. But the money to fund that situation will run out Friday. And Bessie doesn’t know where to turn.

“I called the Salvation Army. I went to the Red Cross,” Bessie said. “Nobody will call me back.”

And homeless shelters aren’t safe for Devonte, Bessie explained.

“My son, he walks all through the night. He mumbles, he makes all these funny noises. They don’t understand that,” Bessie said. “In the shelter, you go in at 6:30 and you have to be out at 6 in the morning. They don’t care that he has a disability.”

These conditions simply don’t work with Devonte’s life.

“He has appointments scheduled; you can’t break that. When you break that, it messes him up,” Bessie said.

What the Taylors need is a stable home.

“All I’m asking for is just a place to call my own. For me and him. Just somewhere I can lay my head and not worry that I have to get out tomorrow,” Bessie said.

“He needs a place of his own. He doesn’t need to be living in a motel. He needs his own room. His everything. I had to put everything that he owned in the storage, everything that was his. Kids are like that; you can’t just uproot them and take their things away from them,” she said.

Pamela is still helping the Taylors. She says that Monterey County has few resources for women of color.

Bessie Taylor is looking for support with money or legal services to get back into a stable home with her son Devonte.

“There’s no Black leadership here, no one in the City Council that represents the voice of Black people,” Pamela said. “They don’t have anything over here for women of color.”

For Pamela, this is personal. Her own son, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, wasn’t able to get the resources he needed from the county. He died earlier this year when he was struck by a train.

“With my son’s death and all the personal things I went through with marginalization, I wanted to make sure that Bessie had a voice and that she was supported and was not alone,” Pamela said.

“We can’t bring my son back. But we can help to keep her son – and let people know that Black lives matter. I want her to be recognized and respected and helped along the way,” Pamela said.

Bessie Taylor is looking for support with money or legal services to get back into a stable home with her son Devonte.

How you can help

POOR Magazine is currently seeking legal support for the family to overturn the illegal eviction from public housing as well as collecting emergency donations for Bessie and Devonte to keep them temporarily housed in the motel so they are not on the street. So far we were able to extend their motel stay by two weeks.

If you are a lawyer in that area, call us at 510-435-7500. If you can donate, please go to www.poormagazine.org/rev_donor and add the notation “4 Bessie.”

Yael Chanoff is an activist and journalist with Poor News Network and can be reached via deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.

9 thoughts on “When a mother and her autistic son are evicted: The story of Bessie and Devonte Taylor

  1. Brenda Simon

    Please provide a direct (exact) link for donating funds for Bessie and her son's welfare..The suggested link at bottom of the article does not provide how to do this one you reach the website…Thank you.

    Reply
  2. lisaganser

    i just tried that link and it didn’t work. I also want to repost this with a direct link to donate money. thank you BayView and POOR magazine!

    Reply
    1. tiny

      At Lisa Ganser and Brenda SImon – i though i oculd do a direct link to the paypal but they wont let u -so people need to go to http://www.poormagazine.org/rev_donor and click on the first button "Donate Anything you can to help- and then in the note on you donation say – For Bessie- this is a secure connection to our paypal and people have successfully donated for bessie thru this- ssadly we at POOR have no admin staff so we have no-one to set up go fund me accts for folks – but this money will go directly to BEssie and her family- we take nothing out- thanks for tryin – please bear with us- mcu love-

      Reply

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