Mobile Housing Board Executive Director Michael Pierce responded late Tuesday to a letter from three members of the Mobile City Council condemning the agency’s threat to evict some residents from Central Plaza Towers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pierce told Lagniappe the roughly eight residents given eviction notices from the senior housing complex had been warned more than once about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding the wearing of face coverings and other social distancing guidelines but continued to ignore them.
“We noticed a number of residents who were not following directives,” Pierce said. “They were not following social distancing guidelines and were not wearing masks.”
Despite an initial notice, Pierce said a number of residents were still gathering closely together without taking precautions. At that point, he said, MHB staff sent a second notice to the residents in question warning that eviction could result if they didn’t comply.
“COVID-19 is very aggressive and can spread like wildfire,” Pierce said. “We wanted to try to get in front of that.”
In a response letter to the councilmen, Pierce wrote that a number of residents at CPT have tested positive for COVID-19 and three residents have died as of May 20. He said the board needed to send a “strong message” to help keep residents and staff members safe.
“We can’t close our eyes and say ‘do what you want’ because people will get sick,” Pierce said. “People will ultimately die.”
In their letter to Pierce, councilmen Levon Manzie, C.J. Small and Fred Richardson urged Pierce and the board to reconsider the evictions that would be happening “amidst a global pandemic.”
“It is very troubling that some of our residents — especially some of the most vulnerable — could be evicted during this crisis,” they wrote. “We are also concerned about similar actions being taken at Boykin Towers, Downtown Renaissance and Emerson Gardens.”
The councilors noted that both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as Gov. Kay Ivey have urged against evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pierce told Lagniappe he doesn’t want to evict any of the residents in question, but wants them to comply and “work with” the board as it helps residents get through the pandemic.
Councilors wrote that the residents in question denied the allegations leveled by Pierce, but the executive director told Lagniappe he had staff members take photos of groups of unmasked residents.
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