published Saturday, December 4th, 2010

East Lake Courts leader faces eviction

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    Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press Deborah Henry, who is being evicted from her East Lake Courts home of 10 years, explains the details an altercation she had with a CHA police officer. The Chattanooga Housing Authority claims the past altercation is the reason for her eviction, but Henry said it is because she is a voice for community residents.

Through tears, former East Lake Courts resident leader Deborah Henry said she believes she has been targeted by Chattanooga Housing Authority police for eviction because she speaks out for her rights and those of others.

"[CHA public safety investigator H. White] told me that she wanted me out of here and that was the last thing she was going to do," said Henry, an East Lake Courts resident of 10 years.

Henry lost an eviction appeal hearing in Hamilton County Circuit Court on Nov. 16. She has to be out of her apartment by Dec. 30.

"Every time I go in front of a judge all I'm allowed to say is yes and no," Henry said. "I've never had anyone tell my story."

CHA said Henry is being evicted after allegedly striking White. But she said she's a target because she publicly speaks up for residents against the housing authority.

*May 19: A police report is filed stating that Deborah Henry struck CHA investigator H. White.

* May 26: Henry receives a one-strike notification for eviction.

* July 12: Judgment is granted to CHA in General Sessions Court trial for Henry's eviction.

* Nov. 16: Henry loses appeal in Circuit Court.

* Dec. 30: Henry is scheduled to be out of the apartment by the end of December.

"I feel like I'm being punished," Henry said. "I can't speak about what's going on. People have light bills higher than their rent and the housing authority is suing them and putting them out for that. Ever since I said something about that, all eyes are on me."

She said she also drew attention for speaking against CHA police after the 2009 shooting death of 15-year-old Alonzo O'Kelley Jr. And in 2008 she was removed as corresponding secretary of the East Lake Courts Resident Association despite 60 resident signatures asking that she remain.

White's May 19 police report states that a resident reported Henry assaulted her. White went to arrest Henry, who resisted and hit White in the face with her fist, according to the report.

Henry was charged with assault, assault on police, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. That's a violation under federal "one-strike" guidelines for public housing, according to the report.

Henry said White came into her house without a warrant and pushed her, and she pushed back.

"She was manhandling me," Henry said.

Another report in October accused Henry of assaulting East Lake Courts resident Desma Matlock.

Henry said Matlock was drunk, and the police report agreed. But the report states that CHA police saw blood coming from Matlock's lip where she said Henry poked her with a fingernail.

Henry said housing officials are intentionally building a case against her to make sure she gets evicted.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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wishingUwell said...

It's a shame that we have all these human rights and civil rights organizations around who routinely write you and ask for money, but they turn a blind eye to the injustices such as Ms. Henry's situation that continue to plague this nation. When you right them, even as a member of their organization, to report such abuses as mentioned in this story they rarely respond, and when they do it's to tell you to find an attorney, which most in Ms. Henry's situation can't afford an attorney to begin with. Or they tell these individuals they don't handle individual cases. But these injustices are neither isolated nor individuals. They are being committed on a routine and regular basis. It's the actions of housing authority police that's contributing largely to the homeless situation here in Chattanooga and elsewhere. One tenant even told me housing authority police were actually allegedly standing around laughing and cracking jokes about another tenant as they watched her being evicted, here belongings set out on the street. And we all thought police are suppose to be there to "serve" and "protect" us from harm? Yet, they are the ones committing the harm for the most part. But God is still in charged, Ms. Henry, and as the old saying goes "When one door close another better door will open" up for you. God don't love ugly and what goes around comes around. Godspeed and God Bless

December 4, 2010 at 5:08 p.m.
fftspam said...

If anyone wants to know how public housing 'works' ...

Find the book 'Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.'

December 4, 2010 at 10:01 p.m.
xyzyra said...

I read that book, ffspam. Sounds like someone watched too much of THE WIRE and THE SHIELD then came up with an idea for a thesis paper.

December 5, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.
fftspam said...


If you did in fact 'read that book' you would know that the book was based on time spent in Chicago in get this... 1989.

Well before 'The Wire' and 'The Shield.'

You do not add to your cause when you make things up.

Fail xyzyra.

December 6, 2010 at 1:54 a.m.
mrsmusic said...

This is such a joke! This woman actually believes 'the system failed' her (Channel 3 news report)? Ha! "Henry was charged with assault, assault on police, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. That's a violation under federal "one-strike" guidelines for public housing, according to the report." "Another report in October accused Henry of assaulting East Lake Courts resident Desma Matlock." Nobody is conspiring against her! She's doing plenty to ruin it for herself. Chattanooga taxpayers should not have to pay the bills for this bully. Go get a job, woman. Pay for everything yourself like the rest of us do!

December 6, 2010 at 10:51 a.m.
bprunty67 said...

few facts that paper does not show. 1 the officer was a woman 2 most of the management of CHA and CHA staff is Black (over 50%) so anybody that believes it race thing think again, anybody that thinks it was man bulling think again rule number one NEVER touch somebody when your mad.

December 10, 2010 at 1:27 p.m.
chioK_V said...

bprunty67, regardless of the racial makeup of CHA staff, all of CHA police officers are white as white sheets and they act that way too. It doesn't matter that they have a black staff to hide behind. Also, the CHA officer in this incident is white. She actually went up into Ms Henry's apartment without a warrant, and the first to do the pushing. The other tenant is also white and was drunk when she was discovered on at Ms. Henry's unit tampering inside her cable box. Ms Henry asked her to leave. Housing authority police have those tenants they rely on to spy on other tenants. The tenant Ms Henry is accused of assaulting is likely one of those tenants the housing authority police have befriended and use. They in turn do favors for the tenants. Such as harassing other tenants their befriended tenants has had a falling out with.

December 10, 2010 at 9:37 p.m.
xyzyra said...

Just because White wrote something in her report, that doesn't make it true. White has lied before in her police reports. In fact, most all those housing authority police officer either lie or pad their reports. But whose going to believe a tenant, a poor one at that and black to boot, over a white police officer? They answer to no one, and pretty much get to do as they please. Hopefully, the feds will step in and investigate the Chattanooga housing authority police.

December 10, 2010 at 9:50 p.m.
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