Debra and Carl Smith have hit hard times. Both are disabled, in their 60s and unable to work. Together they draw $1,400 a month in social security. Carl Smith had once been a truck driver, and his wife was a warehouse worker.
“We’ve been here almost 17 years in this one place. This is the only home we know,” Debra Smith said.
“Right now, we don’t. We don’t have anywhere to go,” Carl Smith said.
Carl Smith and Debra Smith live in a two-bedroom, low-income apartment under the Rocky Top Development and Construction. The units are operated by the LaFollette Housing Authority. Debra Smith said in October 2022 they failed the annual inspection by the housing authority.
“They said we had too much clutter here,” Debra Smith said. “And they also came in and took pictures of our closets. They said we had too much here. So we started cleaning out, getting rid of things. It wasn’t enough.”
A letter from LaFollette Housing Authority sent in January says specifically the couple violated their lease by not complying with housekeeping requirements.
“Didn’t matter what we did. It still wasn’t up to their standards,” Carl Smith said.
The couple shared that the housing authority came to inspect their apartment three times.
Carl Smith said they tried cleaning up but could not move very fast. He has a knee replacement and both hips have been replaced. He also had a stroke. In addition, Debra Smith depends on oxygen to breathe normally and due to poor mobility, she uses a wheelchair.
“I told them, I said, now I said we have to work a while we have to sit down on account of our pain,” Carl Smith said.
At the Housing Authority’s office in February, there was a grievance hearing.
“They said they’d let us know what the decision was,” Debra Smith said. “The decision was that we had to move.”
The grievance report said the Smiths have had more than enough time to correct the issues that had been addressed since October 2022. WATE spoke with leaders at the LaFollette Housing Authority.
We were told the case went to court and a judge ruled the couple’s lease was terminated for poor housekeeping and $1,300 in back rent.
To catch up, the Smiths sent a rent check in March, but it was returned.
Doctors have also sent letters to the housing authority asking that the couple’s eviction be reconsidered due to their disabilities.
The couple has until May 24 at 8 a.m. to have all their belongings out of the apartment and their keys turned in to the Rocky Top Office.
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“I don’t have no hard feelings. I know they have a job to do. But I just want a chance,” Debra Smith said.
After WATE contacted the Area Agency on Aging, the organization put a plan together to delay the eviction. The AAA says a legal remedy at this point is unlikely unless the housing authority is in agreement with a plan of action.
If you live in low-income housing, the tough thing is an eviction following you to your next place, and a lot of times you lose eligibility because of that.