The Housing Crises is Real

By Victoria Lambert

PROMPT—During Covid-19 ...

Friday March 13th was my last day of work. A national emergency had been declared. That started to sink in in the days that followed. A deathly silence hovered over my neighborhood. No trolley horns or just the sound of them running on the rail. No car sounds. No dog sounds. No freight trains in the distance at nite. The only sounds I heard were my beautiful purple queens (in spider-wort family) growing and subsequently my anger. I received a letter from my landlord's attorney dated April 14, 2020 that stated I should pay my past due rent within ten (10) days or eviction proceedings would begin. Really? I am so tired of playing the housing game. All the times my son and I had to move and he dutifully always memorized our addresses after a little practice. We'd been here for almost 2 years, then after 172 days without a permanent address, while I was working and he was finishing high school. We had the money but just couldn't find a place. So we airbnb'ed, hotel'ed, stayed at friends houses, and spent one night in Thirtieth Street Station (highly not recommended) before we'd reconnected with and old friend where we rented 'a' room before getting this studio (320 sq. ft.); which was about double the room we'd shared. But it was ours! So, no, I wasn't willing to acquiesce to a pay rent or quit letter. Little did I know, I would soon find my voice.

I called Community Legal Services and was delighted to learn that there was a Senior Law Center. After the intake, I was called by an attorney who was not only the director but his specialty was landlord-tenant law. I was delighted. He asked for some more info and we talked for a bit before he asked, “Would you be interested in telling your story to the Philadelphia City Council's Committe On Housing, Community Development and Homelessness?” They are preparing to vote on six (6) bills; specifically to aid renters and avoid the eviction process. [Philadelphia has, I learned later, the fourth highest eviction numbers in US.]. YES, I’ll tell my story. Repeating it couldn’t be any more humiliating, painful, or frustrating than going through it. I put my thoughts on paper with the help of his assistant (who wanted to use my words with editing for the three (3) minutes I had been allotted). I signed in to the meeting waiting room at 8:30am and at 3pm I spoke to them. But they day was long and the vote was held over. I immediately got feedback that the council was impressed and touched by My words! Me? Really? Then, surprise, MY attorney (yes, I’m claiming him) called me and said the committee wants to hear from you again before they vote. WOW-super. So, I just reiterated my main points, and spoke from my heart. Five of the six bills passed committee and went on to be considered for the main body. Again I got cool feedback including a lady in the supermarket recognizing my voice (behind a mask) and thanking me! Wow! Me? She told me that because of COVID, she’d had to move in with her boyfriend and it was not a good time. I was both honored by her and immediately sad for her. I think of her often…

The Main Body of The City Council passed the bills—what, really? OMG, Yessssss! The committee had a virtual celebration to which I was invited. The celebration was really quite nice and I received “The Truth Tellers Award” which reads: “for your bravery, vulnerability and holding us all accountable by making the issues real.” Another WOW! I was interviewed by the Associated Press and The Philadelphia Inquirer, twice and asked to speak about my experience at the Senior Law Center’s (Virtual) fund raising gala which raised over 300K so they can keep doing the work of aiding seniors. We (son and I) received a grant to keep us from eviction. But there is a housing crisis. Now, I find myself again in the situation of apartment hunting desperately seeking a place that is not a fourth floor walk up. My attorney told us to file for the phase 4 rental assistance & the current outcome is pending. The housing struggle, my housing struggle is real and at every opportunity I will continue to speak out, tell the truth, be vulnerable, be brave, seek accountability, and pray for more (nice) affordable housing EVERYWHERE! COVID-19 with its many woes took my gig, and our lives are forever changed, but it gave me a voice.

A native New Yorker, Victoria Lambert has resided in CT, GA, CA, and currently resides in Philly with her 20 year old son. She is a proud single mom. An only child, Ms.Lambert’s friends were books. She enjoys making cards, doing calligraphy, making journals, writing, and cooking. Recently Ms.Lambert has spoken out against racial injustice, the housing crisis, and political and criminal injustices. She hopes to travel more internationally. She is just beginning to see herself as an artist. She is excited to hone her writing and book making skills. Ms.Lambert is an active member of SGI-USA, a Buddhist lay organization with members in 192 countries. She enjoys all music from blues to jazz, gospel, rock, and classical. She considers herself blessed with family in 12 states plus Canada. Every day Ms.Lambert wonders how she has found such wonderful and kind, supportive friends.