When a single mom and her four children were illegally evicted before Christmas two years ago, they lost everything. Soon afterward, the community rallied around the distraught family, helping them get back on their feet.
Imagine seeing your life turn upside down in a matter of only seconds. People going about their everyday lives are sometimes clueless about the trials and tribulations lurking in the shadows.
Tragically, a woman from Detroit, Michigan, was ambushed by something similar, which impacted her entire family. Even though she had done nothing wrong, nobody believed her and instead supported her landlord.
Whitney Burney receiving a supportive hug from her community member. | Photo: twitter.com/FOX2News
THE TRAGIC INCIDENT
It was December 2020, and Whitney Burney and her four kids were thrilled about the festive season. They had exciting holiday plans until their happiness turned into sorrow. A little before Christmas, they were greeted by a few visitors. Burney recounted:
"The police came and they said I had to leave, I had to take what I could, which is like a garbage bag of our items. They said if I was to retrieve those things they would arrest me on felony charges."
According to Detroit Eviction Defense's Facebook post, the sad incident occurred on December 19, 2020. The mastermind behind the wrongful eviction was Burney's landlord, Santea Bryant.
THE WICKED LANDLORD
He was accompanied by four Detroit cops, who threatened Burney and her children and forcefully turned them out of the house. Bryant falsely accused Burney of being a squatter and said he didn't know her.
Thanks to her community's support and activists like the Detroit Eviction Defense, Burney and her children found a new home by February 2021.
Burney had lived in the house for three months, and per Detroit Eviction Defense, there was plentiful evidence to prove she had paid thousands of dollars to the landlord and she was a legal tenant.
Bryant and Burney had also conversed via text messages, where he had acknowledged her as his tenant. Unfortunately, the Detroit cops didn't allow Burney to justify her stance or show any evidence to prove her wrongful eviction.
Later, it was discovered that Bryant had carried out illegal evictions before. He never took Burney to court and lied about her being a squatter. When a member from Detroit Eviction Defense checked the home after three days, they were shocked by what they saw.
It turned out Bryant had changed the locks and ruined or stolen most of Burney's belongings, including furniture and appliances, and even her kids' Christmas presents.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The Facebook post also mentioned: "As a result of the illegal and violent actions of this slumlord, with Detroit cops providing the muscle, Ms. Burney has lost her home and her belongings in the middle of this pandemic."
Detroit Eviction Defense also revealed that Burney faced hostility and harassment from her landlord. To right their wrongs, the Detroit Police apologized to Burney and her children for the illegal eviction.
Police Commander Tiffany Stewart stated that the cops turned Burney out due to reported squatting. She apologized to the distraught mother, saying that it should have never happened and that police were usually not involved in civil evictions.
GETTING BACK ON THEIR FEET
Thanks to her community's support and activists like the Detroit Eviction Defense, Burney and her children found a new home by February 2021. A GoFundMe fundraiser was also set up to help the family get back on their feet.
According to sources, Burney was delivered a check for three months' rent to her new landlord. Her hotel stay was also taken care of, and her children were provided with laptops. Nonprofit Humble Design furnished Burney's new home for free.
Burney told Fox2 Detroit: "This is a blessing; we are doing much better. I have a job now. I have a car now." She also shared that the incident could have been prevented because she reached out to the police officers several times.
Indeed, Burney and her family suffered irreparable loss and tragedy, and we hope they're doing much better in their lives now. If this story touched your heart, please share it with your loved ones to raise awareness around this highly pertinent issue.
Wrongful accusations can be devastating, and like Burney, a Missouri man spent 43 years of his life due to wrongful imprisonment. You can read his full story here.
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