Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why I Chose to Fight for a Parking Spot (Or why I got evicted)

You may think that I should have just let it go.
You may think that I was asking for trouble for standing up for myself.
And...you're probably right.

But, if there's one thing that really upsets me, it's when people feel they can walk all over others because they're in a position of power.

Yes, I'm talking about my apartment complex.  

When I moved in, I told them there would be days when I would have to take my wheelchair into the apartment.  That I had a handicap placard, and would be using it.  I thought it was really cool that there was a handicap parking spot right outside my apartment.  Then...this happened:

Yes, that would be a car parked in the striped no parking area right next to the handicap spot.  On a side not, I usually parked a little over the line to give the person next to the handicap spot room to open their doors because the spots were so close together.

The next morning, the car was still there...it was there so late the next morning that I was late for a final exam...I couldn't get my stuff into the car.  When the guy went into the office, and came out, he said the manager said he could park there.  

I'm thinking to myself, wait a minute, this is a no parking zone, and yet the manager just said he could park there.  Something's not right.  So, I decided to look at the Fair Housing Laws, and confirmed that an assigned handicap parking spot is a reasonable accomodation.  And, it would eliminate people parking in the striped area...or so I thought.  

When I asked the manager for the assigned spot, I was told that they'r'e private property and they don't have to provide that accommodation.  So, I checked the law even more.  And this is what I found:
Requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. A housing provider should do everything s/he can to assist, but s/he is not required to make changes that would fundamentally alter the program or create an undue financial and administrative burden. Reasonable accommodations may be necessary at all stages of the housing process, including application, tenancy, or to prevent eviction.

Example: A housing provider would make a reasonable accommodation for a tenant with mobility impairment by fulfilling the tenant's request for a reserved parking space in front of the entrance to their unit, even though all parking is unreserved.
*Here is the link if you want to check it out* 

So, I printed it out, and went back to my apartment manager, and showed it to them.  I got "we will let the attorney's know".  That was it.  In the meantime there continued to be people parking in the striped spot and the handicap spot itself...without a handicap placard.  

This is when I started keeping records.  On more than one occasion I had to call friends to take my things into my apartment because there was not parking. And, several times, I couldn't get in my car.  And, Yet, I continued to ask for the parking spot.  

By the middle of February, when I filed the complaint, I was so frustrated and overwhelmed that I started looking for another apartment.  I wanted to first have all of my ducks in a row before I gave notice and broke my lease.  

In March, it started to get to the point where I felt I was being harassed because I kept asking for the parking spot.  I started staying at school later and later...the Student Center stays open every night until 11 PM.  Then I would go to McDonald's and waste time there.  It got to the point where I would stay gone from my apartment until I was literally falling over because I was so tired.  And I would turn around and get up early, and be at the Student Center when their doors opened at 7AM.  

Then in April, one of the new tenants called the apartment manager and said I followed her to school (the apartment is half a mile from the school) and that she was scared to come home.  Scared of ME...who sits in a wheelchair all day, and am usually in so much pain, I really don't want to mess with anyone.  

It's hard enough for me to carry my Smart Drive into the house, let alone try to find out exactly who this chick was and where she lived.  I could care less about that at this point.  And...I got home that night to an eviction notice.  Yep, you guessed it...lease violation.  I'm such a scary person.

I knew that my Fair Housing Complaint was working it's way through the system, and I was hoping that it would get through the system in time, but it didn't.  

So, I went to court, and got evicted.  And, I asked for some time until the end of the semester, when all the housing would open up.  

And, the apartments wouldn't budge.  I do have to say that I talked to the Regional Office earlier this week...they said they would let me have my parking spot, and let me stay.  I said Thanks but no Thanks because I want them to learn the law and I want them held responsible for every night I had to leave my stuff in the car because I couldn't carry it in, or every night I couldn't charge my Smart Drive.  

So, thanks to some very awesome and wonderful football players, my stuff made it into storage.  I may not have a roof over my head, but I know I can take a stand and fight for what I'm legally entitled to get.  

And, this is where I am not.  I'm homeless again, and I'm fighting for my rights.  

Fair Housing is coming here to Nac in June, and I have about NINE pages of paperwork to fill out..  Personally, I just want this to go away.  Yeah, I think I may be strong enough to stand up for my rights, but there are days where just standing up is too painful.  It's why I use a wheelchair, and why I asked for that parking spot.  So, in the coming days, I'm going to probably post some of the pictures and videos.  And, I will try to keep you updated.  But, right now, there is very little fight left in me.  I just want to finish my education, and get a good job, and provide for my son.  

Here are a couple of the pictures of cars parked in the handicap spot, and the spot next to it.  The gray car is the maintenance guy, who said the striped spot was his "assigned parking spot".
  






This is one of my favorites...To be able to feel that privileged.  
I'm also uploading a video to youtube.  Personally, it sums up the past 5 months for me.  

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