published Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Ringgold flood victims say they were evicted in 'retaliation'

Keith Houston enters his Ringgold, Ga., residence to continue packing up the contents after being evicted. Houston's family is being evicted after last week's flooding led to a closure of the road leading up to their residence off Tara Beth Lane due to severe erosion.
Keith Houston enters his Ringgold, Ga., residence to continue packing up the contents after being evicted. Houston's family is being evicted after last week's flooding led to a closure of the road leading up to their residence off Tara Beth Lane due to severe erosion.
Photo by Dan Henry.

RINGGOLD, Ga. — A family of eight says they are victims of retaliation after they spoke out about their landlord on television when their road washed away in the Labor Day flooding.

Now they say they are being forced to leave their home.

Keith Houston said his sister was in labor and he was trying to take her to the hospital on Sept. 6 when his van tumbled over into a gaping hole caused by the road washing away in the storm that dumped more than 10 inches of rain on the area.

No one was hurt. A local news station later aired an interview with Houston about the accident on Tera Beth Lane. After the interview aired, Houston said his landlord, Tom Matthews, told him to leave that night, then blocked the privately owned road using paint cans and tree limbs to keep the family out.

“He wanted us out and didn’t care where we went,” Houston said.

But Matthews said he blocked the road because it was a safety hazard and said he asked the family to leave, offering to pay back part of the Houstons’ September rent for leaving early.

“There was no retaliation. It was a matter of safety,” Matthews said.

He said he was surprised to see Houston on television, adding that he had “bent over backward for those people.”

Georgia law requires a 60-day verbal notice for a tenant to be required to leave a rented home, said Catoosa County Magistrate Judge Vic Wells.

The Houstons, along with their pregnant sister and her two children, moved into the trailer on Tera Beth Lane at the beginning of August. The lane was bumpy and narrowed by washed-out ditches on both sides.

At the time, Houston said, Matthews told him the road would be fixed.

But the road was only patched, and when the 10-inch downpour hit Sept. 5, large chunks on both sides of the road washed away, he said.

Former next-door neighbor Debbie Haynes verified Houston’s story. Haynes said she moved out only days before the storm arrived because Matthews wouldn’t fix the road and she was worried about her safety.

After the storm, Houston’s wife, Patsy, said she saw Matthews blocking the road and he told her the Catoosa County Planning and Zoning office was fining him for the condition of the road.

Matthews denies ever mentioning being contacted by the county, and he said he believed the family had other access to their trailer when he blocked the road.

Catoosa County Zoning Administrator James Davis said the county doesn’t have jurisdiction over private roads.

Davis said he spoke with Keith Houston over the phone about the blocking of the road and advised him to call the sheriff’s office.

On Tuesday, Patsy Houston was packing up a bookshelf in the trailer’s living room and boxes were strewn throughout the family’s utility room. The couple said Matthews had refused to pay back their rent or return the $200 deposit. They now worry where they will go.

“We can’t find nothing to rent,” Patsy Houston said.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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georgiaboy30736 said...

Sure, we are able to get up to the house; by walking 1/4 mile through the woods. It's a matter of being able to get up to the house with the vehicle to load furniture and stuff without having to carry it through the woods.

September 15, 2011 at 7:05 a.m.
wowza1 said...

Stories like this prove why your readership is down. Did you research these people? I would suggest you do so, then write a retraction, apologize to Mr. Matthews for making him to appear to be the bad guy, and maybe fill in the blanks regarding the Houstons and their "plight". Please!!! I have plenty of information. Seriously, please fix this. I feel bad for Mr. Matthews as I have dealt with these people and their lies. Including one about the zoning commission!!! Odd? I think not. In fact, it was only on July 31st. Hmmmmm.

georgiaboy30736, are you Keith? If so, I'm curious of how your sister was in labor here when she moved back to Chicago. Oh, what about Patsy? She said she had to move back to the Myrtle Beach area because you were in jail due to zoning issues on July 31, 2011. I still have the voicemail for proof. What about the money you took from Cherokee Valley Baptist for being "tornado victims"? Oh wait, you weren't a tornado victim, you lived at least 8 miles away from where the tornado hit. WOWZA!!!

September 23, 2011 at 4:03 p.m.
drpence said...

wowza1? I think that your comment posting to "these people" is very telling of what kind of person you are. It's unfortunate that you felt the need to further humiliate this family, let alone them being homeless wasn't enough for them to deal with. Is it that important to you that the mother moved to Chicago?..or that Patsy moved back to Myrtle Beach?...are you jealous?..it sure seems that way to me..even about this family going to church and accepting money for the hard times that they were going thru, at that time..I believe that is between the church and this family, not you and the family and the church..just because they lived 8 miles from where the tornado hit, does not mean they did not suffer and I will tell you why: we live 4 miles from Tiger Creek School, almost in Whitfield county, and we suffered from the tornado..how? you may ask?..my husband works at Shaw #37, which is behind Rinngold City Pool, and he wasn't ableto go to work because of the power and some damage it incurred due to the tornado...so, what do you say to that?..that we didn't suffer?..are you kidding me?..you have no idea what we went thru, not to mention that our town was destroyed, and that so many others homes were lost, along with lives that were also lost...so you just need to back up a bit and before you start typing away at someone and accusing a family of lying or dictating how they should live or where some may move to, you need to think and put yourself in someone else's situation, because trust me when I say this, you have no idea what the future holds for you and your family or loved ones and what you would do at your local Church..you may even find yourself accepting some money that is offered to you or start a new life somewhere else if you had the chance to do so..so just stop and think before you start you start posting something you know nothing about...and have a nice day..

September 28, 2011 at 7:13 p.m.
georgiaboy30736 said...

@drpence- wowza1 was a landlord that refused to clean up a mess left at one of their rental properties that the Houstons moved to.Mr houston was jailed for a short period due to wowza1's refusal to clean up a pile of debris. They continued to make "Empty Promises" about having a larger place being available "Real Soon", in order to keep getting Houston's money every month. I feel bad enough for all the crap I've had to put up with from people, ESPECIALLY wowza1. He's no better than Tom Matthews. And there are other people not related to me, that have suffered thru Tom Matthews as well. wowza1, aka CK electric, and King Properties, put that in your pipe and smoke it!

October 2, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.
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