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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le calvaire d’Alice Tavares, expulsée de son logement

by Ixchel Delaporte

Alice Tavares ordeal as she is thrown out of her home

Translated Wednesday 30 May 2018, by Paula Smith

Your revelation. revelation@humanite.Fr . Filomena Tavares/taverny/Precarite phoned first of all. Then there were words. Filomena Tavares contacted the journalist team to express more than annoyance. A real emergency call for her, her daughter but above all for her sister and her three children.

All six of them live in an unsustainable situation. Crammed into one hotel room since their eviction from a flat known to be unsanitary, they are confronted by general indifference. Alice’s case is a recognised priority; although seriously ill and over-indebted, she is not receiving any solution in terms of housing. A dead end for which they turn to l’Humanité for help.

On the first floor, opposite room 118 of the Campanile Hotel, in the commercial centre of Taverny (Val-d’Oise), Alice Tavares, 50 years old, is lying on the edge of the balcony facing the car park. It is 8.30am and she is watching her child Tiago go to school. It is now four months since she has been living in this room measuring 12 square meters with her three children: Tiago (12), Kevin (15), Anais (17), her sister Filomena (42) and her niece Claudia (22). Four of them sleep in one bed. Filomena and her daughter on the floor. From time to time one or the other will sleep in the car. Slowly Alice returns to the room holding her stomach and sits on the bed.

A big red case is placed at the back of the cupboard. On the side of the bed, a table which usually serves as a desk is transformed into a kitchen with a box of pains au chocolat, sugar cubes, coffee and a basket with tomatoes and fruit. From today onward Alice has nothing left to pay for the room. To pay for four months at 72 euros per night she has been granted credit from Cora and Darty. Each day the family struggles to find a few hundred euros to pay for the room. “What worries me the most are the social services; I do not want them to take away my children because of all I have in the world they are the most precious” she reveals in front of her daughter Anaïs.

Alice has not has an easy life. Originally from Portugal, she arrived in France at the age of eighteen. Married to a violent man for twenty years, she raised her eight children at Poitiers until her husband broke both her legs, severely beat her and left her in a coma for four months. That was in 2012. After having been at deaths door, she decides to leave and ends up in Taverny, a town with 26 000 residents in the Val-d’Oise. An apartment owner rents out a flat of 90 metres squared to her with a ton of rubble outside. One year after her arrival the accommodation deteriorates. Alice puts together a large file containing photos and documents. It shows dampness and significant leaking. The landlord refuses to carry out repairs and asks Alice to do it. “It was financially impossible for me to do so but mostly it should have been up to him! Litres of water fell during some months and he did nothing. I made a legal complaint.” According to Alice’s lawyer Master Rocha, the case is still ongoing but is at risk of not advancing. “The case is not progressing because there is need for an independent expert in order to prove that the leak is structural. Yet, we do not know since my client has left if the landlord has done any improvement work.”

12 000 euros of rent owed

Everything breaks down in 2014. She has a thyroid operation and the doctors discover bacteria in the stomach. She takes antibiotics for years without result. A little while after she was diagnosed she notices that CAF (social benefits) are not paying out all the full amount that she claims. At that time Alice was raising five children. “Sometimes it was 200 euros less and sometimes 700 euros. I do not understand these gaps and the CAF have never given an explication” Without work or benefits she cannot pay her landlord and accumulates little by little a debt of 12 000 euros.

From 2014 Alice requests social housing at the town hall in Taverny and is supported by a social worker from the area. Her request remains unanswered. “I have had several appointments with the ‘CCAS’ with the housing deputy. Nothing has happened. I have contacted the Mayor, Florence Portelli (republicans-NDLR). She never wanted to meet me, explains Alice, who is convinced that her file is placed on a black list. However, in 2015, even the hygiene and health services in Taverny obtain a confirmation of dampness in the flat caused by a leak in the bathroom which is responsible for the dirty water on the floor causing severe damage. Alice’s health deteriorates. The social worker urges her to have the operation. But the mother of eight children refuses due to the possibility of eviction. “It could happen at any given moment. We have done everything to push it back. I do not want to be placed in hospital and find my children alone in the street”.

In Taverny town hall, Loic Drouin, the director of Florence Portelli’s cabinet, knows the case and will barely deal with Tavares family. “This woman put herself in this difficult situation. She has brought down the area. We are not refusing to see her. We do not neglect anyone; however, considering the rent debt, no social housing office wants the case.” Even though the hygiene and health department has confirmed the flat was in a bad state. Does he know of this particular housing? “Yes we know it very well,” he responds, then continues “It is no different from the others.” Alice Tavares was evicted on the 31st of March 2018, the landlord continues to collect housing benefits. Contacted by telephone, the retired owner living in Agde did not follow it up.

“All my files are blocked”

Alice is filed as a priority by Dalo (legal opposable housing) in 2017. The police commissioner of Val-d’Oise appointed on May 11th last year the landlord ‘Soliha’ to assist with her relocation. Alice had heard nothing until last week. The day after our call to Soliha to request information they contacted Alice to arrange an appointment for Wednesday 29th May. The beginnings of a solution? One must hope so. “All my files are blocked!” She curses. “I am in a fight with CAF who owe me money but refuse to show the document which confirms this has been the case for three years. That would allow me to pay off my debt. I have little energy to fight it....”

In the small hotel room the interview is reaching an end. Alice is at the breaking point with abdominal pain. She shows a prescription from her doctor from the hospital (Saint-Joseph) Paris, dated August 2017, where there is a recommendation for an operation on an expedited basis. The bacteria have developed into cancer. She must have her stomach removed. Except at any given moment, once again, Alice is at risk of eviction. Without permanent housing, no operation is possible. The days are long in the room. The children try to live normally. The youngest goes to school. Kevin, 15 years old, has managed to gain an apprenticeship at a hairdressers in the nearby commercial centre and Anais is awaiting news about her driving license. Breathing with difficulty, Alice has no energy to battle. “If we can no longer pay the hotel, I will sleep outside or even die”.

In Taverny we like social housing. Only on condition that they are not given to the poorest. The town has been noted for not respecting the law which states that 25% of housing should be social. 245 were counted between 2013 and 2016, three times the amount stated by law. However 95,74% are PLS which are the most expensive social accommodation placed in the most expensive category reserved for those with an annual income not exceeding 65 334 euros for a family with two children. For the poorest, those earning less 27 641 euros (4 people), the town is less generous. They grant….4,25% of new social housing. Very far behind the 30% stated by the law.

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