This story ran in the Miami Herald after a mass shooting in the Overtown Community in Miami:
Miami Herald: Overtown woman evicted after block party ends in mass shooting
An Overtown woman was evicted from her public housing development Friday for allowing her son to host a party that ended with bloodshed.
Two weeks after an Overtown birthday celebration ended with a shooting that claimed the lives of a young woman and a teenage boy, the home that was packed with partygoers is now empty. A black doormat was the only trace left of Juliette McClain after her eviction Friday from the Culmer Place public housing development.
The party — held for her son, Lawrence Smith — was sufficient reason to kick her out of her Overtown duplex, Miami-Dade County officials said. According to records, the Miami-Dade Public Housing Agency gave McClain, 49, until midnight Friday to leave the duplex in the 500 block of Northwest Fifth Avenue. ”Criminal activity” and ”drug and alcohol abuse” during the July 5 party at her home violated the lease agreement, according to a letter from the agency. The violations justify her eviction, according to the agency’s crime reduction coordinator, Jeffrey Gorley.
”We have a zero tolerance policy in public housing,” he said. “If you violate the law or your lease, you could be evicted. ”McClain could not be reached for comment.
Neighbors say McClain was not at fault, and her eviction is not justified.
Juanita Williams, who lives down the block from McClain’s empty residence, was one of many in the neighborhood who signed a petition attempting to keep McClain from losing her home. ”I think it’s unfair,” Williams said. “What did she do? She didn’t know it was going to happen. I don’t think she’s too much to blame.” But even Williams admits the party was too wild for her 17-year-old church-going daughter, Deandra. The high school student was invited but stayed home. The party later claimed the life of her eighth grade prom date, Anthony.
Although the boy’s aunt, Tarrisha Monrose, does not hold McClain responsible for his death, she said the eviction was well-deserved. ”I’m happy that at least something is being done,” she said. “She knew she wasn’t supposed to throw the party in the first place, and there have to be consequences.” Another neighbor, Mary Maddry, sat in a green patio chair outside her home Friday — yards from the spot where the shooting occurred — and said the birthday party was the largest she had seen since she moved into the neighborhood in 1984. Still, she signed the petition trying to keep McClain in her home. She said the shooters — not McClain — were responsible. ”There’s nothing you can do when someone invades your neighborhood. You can’t stop them,” she said.
The above story ran in the Miami Herald after a mass shooting in October 2009 in the Overtown Community in Miami. If it were not for the love and concern of Touching Miami With Love (TML) this would probably be the only story coming out of this tragedy. TML has been a good and loving neighbor to the Overtown Community for over 15 years.
Many of the young people who were at the party attend their youth program and they were friends with some one of the young people that was killed. Because TML has been building solid relationships in Overtown, they were able to comfort the young people, give voice to the residents and create an atmosphere where unity and reconciliation could begin to take place. Jason Pittman, Executive Director of TML was quick to reach out to EVERYONE, including Juliette.
Shortly after the shooting incident TML convened a community meeting. Juliette was also invited to the meeting. As people began to arrive I overheard some women saying “what is SHE doing here, its all her fault”.
Many, like the Public Housing Authority staff, felt that Juliette was responsible for what took place. Jason led the community in prayer, reflection and a time to share their thoughts and feelings and had prepared the TML staff and other leaders to facilitate the conversation.
These simple steps were like the “Healing Balm of Gilead”. Instead of venting and blaming, community residents verbalized and named THE things in their community that were contributing factors to this horrific event. Easily available assault riffles and guns, drugs, lack of employment, no community policing, poor lighting and not enough things for young people to do were the real contributing factors that led to the shooting, not Juliette’s desire to celebrate her son’s birthday.
So, what is the end of the story? There isn’t one, just more chapters in TML’s journey to transform their little corner of the world into a community where love of God and love of neighbor is visible. I can tell you that at the end of that meeting, the ladies with the proverbial “Stone her” attitude where the first to sign the petition so Juliette could stay in her apartment and Juliette was not evicted after all.