HOUSTON – What turned out to be what some neighbors felt was a case of injustice turned into a community wake up call and people helping people.
Neighbors in the community of Pine Village North were shocked Tuesday morning after witnessing Harris County Precinct 3 constables putting Mrs. Frances Jean Sanders and all of her furniture out on the streets.
Panicked, she began to call others for help and one friend, Mrs. Martha Marie Preston, the co-founder of Elite Ladies of Expression, jumped into action.
Preston contacted KPRC 2 and told us what was happening, and our news crews headed to Sanders’ home.
“They told me to come outside and I did and they did not let me back inside. They told me they had an order to put me out,” Sanders said. “I said ‘Oh Lord’ but I did what they asked me to do.”
Sanders explained that she has been living in her home for more than 40 years, since 1981. She explained that her homeowners and maintenance fees cost $168 per month, but she has not been able to keep up with payments because she is on a fixed income and, more so, doesn’t feel the HOA does anything to deserve her money.
“We don’t have annual meetings, monthly meetings,” she said. “How can I pay for something that I am not getting? They have not fixed our streets or anything.”
Authorities said, due to nonpayment of the fees, the house was sold in September for $18,000 and the eviction process was legal.
Despite the legal back and forth, temperatures in the Houston area are soaring. With Sanders being wheelchair-bound and 71 years old, it was a safety concern for her being left outdoors next to her belongings.
“It seems as if there is no pity for the poor,” said T. Leon Preston II, senior pastor, Yale Street Baptist Church. “If there was, there would be more entities providing resources for persons in distressful situations of such.”
KPRC 2 placed a call to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who asked one question, ”what constables are on the scene?”
Less than an hour later, Jackson Lee called KPRC 2 with an update. “Her belongings are being placed back inside her home.”
“I am certainly grateful to Channel 2 for reaching out to our office while she was sitting out in the burning sun in a wheelchair. Obviously, no sympathy, no understanding. The movers coming at the best of a new owner she does not even know exist,” the congresswoman said. “I am also grateful to Constable (Sherman) Eagleton who was sympathetic enough, who was really acting on a court order that he had received that Mrs. Sanders didn’t even know existed.”
And while part of the story seems like a relief, another part shows that much more needs to be done.
As it turns out, Sanders was living in unlivable conditions. Her home had no air, was falling apart and, as a disabled woman with little help, was extremely cluttered. While her furniture was being returned inside the home, Sanders would not be able to stay there for safety reasons.
“Not in a million years would I have thought she would be living in those conditions. She is always helping others in the community,” Martha Preston said. “Think about it, since COVID hit, none of us have really been going into each other’s homes for the past two years. But now, we are going to do whatever it takes to get her back on her feet.”
City officials and other community leaders are leading the charge.
“I am viewing this as a cause for my office. Number one – to address this question with the US Department of Housing because it deals particularly with housing in urban and challenged neighborhoods,” Jackson Lee said. ”One of our highest priorities is to protect our children and families, and yes, our senior citizens.”
Captain Lewis, with Precinct 3, said Constable Eagleton and Pastor Stearns with Living Water International Apostolic Ministry made living arrangements for Mrs. Sanders. She will temporarily live at a senior living facility until they find a more permanent solution.
Sanders’ nephew, knowing that her desire is to remain in the home she’s lived in for the past four decades, said he is seeking ways to help purchase the home. A representative from Precinct 3 said she has the option to buy the house back for the price at which it was sold, plus 18 percent.
“This is God’s calling. Sometimes you have to come out, in order to come back in. Every disappointment can turn into a blessing,” said Martha Preston. “Now she can get the help that she needs for herself.”
Sanders is grateful for those who stepped in to help, especially to the elected official known to fight tirelessly for others.
“Sheila Jackson Lee. She told them to put it back and that’s all I know,” Sanders said. “I’m wonderfully blessed. That’s all I can say.”
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