East Lake Courts leader faces eviction

East Lake Courts leader faces eviction

December 4th, 2010 by Yolanda Putman in News

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.