93-Year-Old Woman Spends 2 Night in Jail After Eviction from Senior Housing
Franklin House Independent Living Center is a small senior residential community, offering a safe and comfortable place to live along with a number of activities to help people find community. And up until recently, 94-year-old Juanita Fitzgerald’s called this place home. That is, until she was evicted and arrested on trespassing charges for refusing to leave. She spent two nights in a detention center and was released on her 94th birthday, when she was put up in a motel room.
“I don’t have anybody. My family’s in Tenessee,” Juanita explained to reporters that her two children are in their seventies and are both dealing with their own medical issues.
While very distraught about losing her home, Juanita is still quite the firecracker and isn’t afraid to tell her side of the story to the media.
Court documents outline that Fitzgerald was given a 10-day notice to pay $161 she owed in rent on Oct. 19, which would terminate her lease agreement by November 2nd. “She had the opportunity to pay the rent for months including during the court process,” stated Karen Twinem, a spokeswoman for Franklin House.
But Juanita believes there’s much more to the story than Franklin House is willing to admit. She says she wasn’t very popular among other residents, and that the staff were looking for a way to remove her for at least a year. “She’s been for a year trying to do that,” Juanita told WFTV.
Terry Goldberg, who lives at the facility, told reporters, “It is what it is, about her being there [in the detention center], you know. I know there’s lots of mixed feelings about it. I for one feel like we offered her all the help that we could offer her and she refused it.”
Juanita remembers standing her ground until the last moment, saying, “If you’re going to take me, you’re going to have to carry me.” When reporters met her, she had large bruises on her arms and legs where her handcuffs were placed for an interview appearance. Though the police report states “Due to Juanita’s age, it was deemed necessary to transport her without handcuffs to reduce risk of injury”.
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Footage from the police officer’s body cam has been released, showing Juanita struggling against police and crying out while being placed into custody. The video shows an unnamed agency representative offering to bring Juanita in her own car, while an officer is heard saying Juanita has refused help. Juanita then drops from her walker and officers attempt to undo her grip while getting her into their vehicle. The representative can then be seen filming the incident from a phone, and a third officer warns her to back away. After a great deal of persuasion and struggle (while officers tell Juanita they’re trying to not hurt her while removing her from the facility), she is placed into a police car.
Fortunately, there is some glimmer of compassion and human empathy for Juanita. Efforts are being made to find her a new place to live. “We’re working with her to try to accommodate her as soon as possible,” said B.E. Thompson, board member of the Mid-Florida Homeless Coalition, who began working with Juanita to find her a suitable home. (According to a WFTV report, the officers who were present at Juanita’s eviction say she refused assistance from eleven other agencies at the time).
Many members of the public who have found out about Juanita’s story expressed outrage at how the situation was handled. For many people, even unpaid rent shouldn’t warrant the removal of a 90+ year old woman from her only home.
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