Justice Housed: A woman and her dog

The 50-year-old woman living with HIV was on the brink of homelessness. “Betty” had been subletting a room in West Philadelphia from a friend who was not paying the landlord. The landlord got a judgment against the friend, who left before being evicted.Having used her Social Security disability benefits to pay the rent, Betty couldn’t afford to stay. She just needed time to find a new home for herself and her dog. But the landlord was not willing to wait. He locked the kitchen door, turned off the electric and water, and removed the toilet and bathtub. In desperation, Betty tried to move to another unit in the same building and gave a deposit to the landlord’s agent, who refused to return the money when he rented the unit to someone else. Betty turned to the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania for help. We began negotiating with the landlord’s attorney, but he couldn’t reach Betty. She had no phone and could only call when she could borrow one. She repeatedly missed scheduled meetings with us. When she ultimately came to our office, she explained that she was struggling to cope with the killing of her daughter just days earlier. The landlord’s attorney offered $1,500 in a “cash for keys” settlement. We negotiated and got $2,000 for Betty. Now she had a chance to find some peace, be comforted by her dog, and move to a secure residence.