By Jill Stengel and Shulamit Glazerman
In Davis’ Village Homes neighborhood one can find residents of all ages and life stages, from singles, to young families, to empty-nesters. It is also home to an increasing number of seniors. Some of these older residents have lived in Village Homes for several decades, having raised children here. Others chose to move to the neighborhood more recently, because they sought a tight-knit community in which they could spend their senior years.
Kathryn Shack, 71, moved to Village Homes last year after losing her husband. She had lived with him for three decades in the Willowbank area of Davis, but felt isolated there after he passed away. Ms. Shack chose Village Homes for the neighborhood. “My neighbors have been very supportive, my neighbors are very friendly. Walking around Village Homes absolutely puts a smile on my face,” she says.
Ms. Shack enjoys having neighbors of all ages. “One of the things that really pleases me is watching the children go by on the path on their skateboards and bicycles, running up and down. It feels more like the 1950s here.”
She adds, “I’m hoping to live here for the rest of my life.”
Several residents have organized a neighborhood group called Village in Action that sponsors adult education opportunities. They have held several seminars about “Aging in Place,” a movement to provide support for people who want to remain in their homes as they get older.
This activism and community support may explain why residents are extremely alarmed that one of their most vulnerable neighbors, A resident may be removed from her home this week.
On Wednesday, April 30, a disabled, low-income resident of Village Homes, may be forced to leave her apartment, where she has lived for 14 years. The Neill family owns the unit, with long-term Davis resident Kerry Halsted as managing partner. This is the second time Ms. Halsted is attempting to remove The resident from her apartment in two years.
The resident suffers from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that weakens the body’s connective tissue. It can have a significant effect on the cardiovascular system, including an increased risk for aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection. The resident also suffers from high blood pressure.
The resident depends on the neighborhood to earn a modest living, caring for neighborhood children and pets. She has helped raise several children in the community. She has no other family and nowhere else to go. She is extremely attached to her home. The resident has limited alternative housing options because of her low income and dependence on the neighborhood for her livelihood.
The resident’s work has made her a well-connected and valued member of the community. For working parents, she has been the go-to person to help with emergency pickups from school and children needing after-school care. When people go away, The resident provides animal care and dog-walking services, so that animals can avoid the kennel.
Village Homes resident Regina Jones wrote in a letter to Ms. Halsted, “I firmly believe that without (her) availability and willingness to act as the neighborhood caregiver, that my marriage would not be as strong, my financial security as stable, and my children’s lives as fulfilling as they are.” She concluded with, “(She) is invaluable, and irreplaceable. I have no idea where she will go if you evict her, or how I will explain to my children that she is gone.”
Given The resident’s fragile health and limited resources, neighbors are concerned that the trauma of losing her home could have devastating, and even tragic results. The resident has expressed suicidal thoughts at the possibility of being forced from her home.
The first eviction effort arose from disagreements between The resident and the owners regarding major damage associated with rainwater infiltration that occurred during the winter of 2012, and subsequent repairs and remodeling. The first attempted eviction resulted in a court-sanctioned agreement to extend The resident’s lease for 18 months. That period is now up.
The current impending eviction is creating déjà vu for many neighbors, as they embark on a second campaign to protect The resident from being forcibly removed from her home. In a letter to Ms. Halsted, neighbor Sherri Sandberg-Ransom noted, “Many of us are very disturbed that (she) again finds herself in the situation of losing her home.” Numerous others have written letters on The resident’s behalf, including the Village Homeowners Association Board.
During the first eviction campaign in 2012, the Board wrote to Ms. Halsted, “you do not have a true understanding of our community,” and “you are violating the fundamental tenets of our community: to ‘live in peace,’ and to have compassion and understanding toward one another.”
More recently the Board wrote, “The resident is an important member of our community here at Village Homes.” They went on to explain, “Our community is different from most suburban subdivisions…we talk with one another, we help one another, we support one another, we are a true community, a neighborhood of friends, extended family, and long-term interconnections.”
Neighbor Tamara Kraus sent Ms. Halsted a letter requesting that she seek mediation through Yolo Conflict Resolution Center, which has extensive experience dealing with conflicts between tenants and landlords in Davis.
Ms. Halsted has stated that she is “planning to follow the court Stipulation and Order,” adding, “I have been advised by my attorney not to discuss this with anyone.” The agreement allows Ms. Halsted to remove The resident immediately at midnight on May 1; it also explicitly provides Ms. Halsted the option to extend the lease.
Village Homes neighbors have come to The resident’s aid with an active letter-writing campaign. They are also planning a rally and potluck, in classic community spirit, Tuesday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. on the Village Homes Big Green..
Jill Stengel has been a resident of Village Homes for 11 years, Shulamit Glazerman is her neighbor and another Village Homes resident.