Photo: Liberation News

Arneechia Francisco celebrated the New Year by moving into a newly renovated apartment with her three young children — a beginning to 2019 that seemed unlikely just a few months earlier.

In the closing months of 2018, the Francisco family was preparing to move out of the Roxbury, Boston neighborhood apartment they called home for the last fifteen years. SA Planet Realty LLC bought the building Ms. Francisco lives in more than a year ago, and she had been fighting off eviction since shortly thereafter. “When [SA Planet Realty] came in, people just started leaving. There were people here who you thought this was going to be their home because they were here for over ten years. And they weren’t moving because they won the lottery, or they were buying a home, or they were getting married. I don’t know everyone’s situation, but that’s what my eyes saw,” said Ms. Francisco. “I had been in and out of court with these people. I must have been in court about six to ten times.”

After a lengthy legal process, the Francisco family was ordered to leave their apartment by Nov. 1, 2018, or have their belongings forcibly moved out onto the street by Boston constables. Ms. Francisco was working two jobs at the time while providing full-time care for her children as a single mother, and was expected to both move her belongings and find a suitable new apartment on her own. As the end of October approached, Ms. Francisco shifted her focus from fighting the eviction to securing a new place for her family to safely live. Francisco told us, “I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through anything like that. Because I had some plans, but they weren’t foolproof.”

When we fight, we win!

On Oct. 25, a week before the eviction date, Ms. Francisco met Rachel Domond and Joe Tache, her downstairs neighbors and members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Ms. Francisco recalls, “Rachel and Joe left a letter with my children [while I was at work]. So I got involved with their Party.”

When, despite feeling pessimistic about her chances, Ms. Francisco said she was still willing to fight, the three neighbors sprang into action. Domond detailed their efforts: “We wrote up a letter on behalf of our entire building, saying we as the tenants demand that this family is not evicted. And we visited all the apartments in our building, which in total was 10 occupied apartments at the time, and we got 8 out of the 10 to sign onto the letter. Then we circulated the petition as a public letter. In total, four organizations and nearly 250 individuals signed on,” said Domond.

“On Oct. 29, we filed a temporary restraining order to get Arneechia another court date and organized an emergency protest at our property management company’s office. And we were ready to do an eviction blockade as well if it had to come to that.”

At the emergency protest, the Francisco family, members of the PSL, representatives from local housing non-profit City Life/Vida Urbana, and a dozen other community members marched around and into the property manager’s office, chanting and holding signs saying “No Evictions on Waverly!” and “Eviction Free Zone.” Ms. Francisco and others took turns speaking to the crowd demanding SA Planet Realty LLC cancel the eviction.

Following the emergency protest, Ms. Francisco, Domond, and Tache remained in the office to negotiate with their property managers and ultimately reached an agreement that Ms. Francisco could relocate to a newly renovated apartment in the same building at no extra cost to her. With additional legal support, the agreement was signed in court on Oct. 31. “I should’ve been moved out by Nov. 1, but they were able to assist me with their organization — and with some rallying and protesting — and now I’m able to stay. I’m just relocated in the same building,” said Ms. Francisco.

A future in tenant organizing

Reflecting on how her fight relates to Boston’s deepening housing crisis, Ms. Francisco added, “Just being in that courthouse, those people are there for a reason. I’m sure the majority of people are probably in situations similar to mine. That’s terrible. That’s somebody’s mom, sister, daughter, grandma. It’s cold on the streets. I don’t think anyone should be homeless. Even people that aren’t in their right state of mind to know ‘oh, I have to pay this bill.’ They should build up equal housing, education, and food for everyone.” Domond added, “Housing has been so commodified in our society under capitalism that we’re giving priority to the landlords’ right to gain a profit rather than a family’s right to have shelter and a place to live, which is a basic human need and a basic human right.”

Moving forward, Ms. Francisco, Domond and Tache want to continue organizing within their building and neighborhood to ensure that other families are protected. As Tache noted, “Obviously we’re weakest as individuals and strongest as a collective. In our building, we showed some of the really beautiful things that happen when we show up for one another, support one another, and tell the people who exploit us that we’re going to leverage our collective strength.”

Ms. Francisco is ready: “Next thing is just trying to get people together. Do it the Good Times way and meet in the laundry room.”