by Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Housing Rights Committee
San Francisco – Peter Owens, one of three landlords of Iris Canada, the 100-year-old African American woman evicted from her apartment in the Fillmore area by Sheriff Vicki Hennessy on Feb. 10, has removed Ms. Canada’s possessions from the home she’s lived in since 1965 without notice and while she was in the hospital.
Ms. Canada’s niece, Iris Merriouns, her main caretaker, says that Owens’ attorneys have denied her access to the elder woman’s possessions.
Owens hired two U-Hauls to take all of her things, including family photos, furniture, ID cards, check books, necessary medical supplies and documents, her deceased husband’s paintings, memorabilia and clothing, to an unknown storage unit. Tenant activists arrived Tuesday night while the trucks were being loaded and called the police, objecting to Ms. Canada’s things being removed without any notification to her family.
“Last night, in view of the police, housing activists and media, the movers stopped loading any more items on the trucks,” said Deepa Varma of the San Francisco Tenants Union on Tuesday night. “But no doubt they went back today (Wednesday) and completed the job.
“Who does this to a 100-year-old? Who takes away all of the things she’s accumulated over the years and doesn’t tell her family where they are and when they can retrieve them? This is heartless.”
“Iris may be released from the hospital as soon as they can stabilize her heart rate,” said her lawyer, Dennis Zaragoza. “She currently has no home to return to, no access to her belongings, and her home-health providers are currently scheduled to provide service only to the home she just lost.
“The landlord is holding the documents necessary to change or restart medical services, and the attorneys for the Peter Owens Group have failed to provide a statement of the moving costs and storage in order for the family to raise the money and retrieve them. How is my client supposed to get the care she needs in this situation?”
Peter Owens and his lawyer, Andrew Zacks, denied the family reasonable access to gather Ms. Canada’s belongings. When Zacks showed up to Iris Canada’s house Tuesday night, he refused to let her niece inside to get medical documents and supplies, even with a police escort.
Ms. Canada’s supporters and family are hoping that Owens and Zacks don’t destroy Ms. Canada’s personal belongings, as they don’t think she could endure such news in the face of her current health condition and losing her long-time home.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca, writer, singer-songwriter, performance artist, former Harvey Milk Club president and director of counseling programs at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.