D.C. woman is evicted, and with her, 30,000 pounds of belongings

A woman's belongings lined several blocks of sidewalks surrounding her home in Columbia Heights on Wednesday morning after she was evicted.
By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 7:54 PM

Evicted, Eloisa Diaz stood on Otis Place NW on Wednesday, her financial struggles and habit of collecting household goods - enough to crowd four street corners - exposed for all to see.

Evictions happen every day, more so during a recession that has pushed unemployment and foreclosures to historic highs. But few evictions create such a dramatic scene: jumbled mounds of goods, more than could be carted away by three moving trucks, each able to carry more than 10,000 pounds.

"Everything," Diaz, 50, said standing at Otis and 11th Street, where she has lived for about 15 years. Strewed out for a constant stream of gawkers was "everything I got with my sweat and my money and my heart."

A housekeeper for most her life, she said she started collecting the items to send to relatives in Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. "I cried when I went to Mexico to see my family," she said. "Look at how they live. I feel it's my job to look out for them."

But for 2 1/2 years, she has been unemployed, unable to pay rent, let alone the $5,000 she estimates it would cost to send a shipment of the size she envisions.

Sporadic payments

According to D.C. Superior Court documents, Diaz owed her landlord $10,096 and was unable to keep up with a payment schedule that required her to hand over $300 a month on top of her rent of $1,318. Records show she paid sporadically, sometimes $500 one month and nothing the next.

On Saturday, Diaz said, she received a letter saying she could be evicted from the rowhouse as early as Sept. 21. So she was awake Tuesday morning when a crew of men arrived. Neighbors report seeing about two dozen men working from morning until evening clearing the house.

When they were done, a chaotic sight remained: vacuum cleaners piled next to broken picture frames piled next to soup pots filled with Legos. A wet wipes warmer sat next to a Christmas-themed moose statue. Here, a book titled, "How to Survive the Loss of Love;" there, a broken lampshade. Every piece of furniture appeared broken or damaged.

"Anything is usable," Diaz said. "Believe me."

She spent Tuesday night into Wednesday standing guard, trying to carve out little corners of order amid the mess. She did not sleep and went to the restroom only once, she said.

Diaz's roommate, Mosart Nkwemi, 45, who has lived in the house for two years, said he didn't know about the eviction until he came home from his job as a computer programmer and saw his belongings tossed among Diaz's.

"Did you find your green card?" Diaz asked him Wednesday.

"No," he mumbled. It was missing along with his clothes and three laptop computers that he planned to sell.

Kindnesses extended

The owner of the property, listed in court documents as Joanne Beasly, did not return a call for comment.

A Sterling-based moving company, JK Moving & Storage, volunteered to cart away Diaz's belongings and store them for a month without charge. Workers filled three large trucks before telling Diaz that they couldn't take the rest. "That's a 30,000-pound local move," said Jason Pulsifer, who was managing the move. "That's the biggest we get."

As Diaz tried to decide what to do with the remaining pile before heading to a shelter for the night, Tony Williams, 57, came by. He said watching Diaz reminded him of the half-dozen times he was evicted while struggling with drug addiction. "It's embarrassing," he said. "You feel helpless."

So Williams decided to help Diaz in the only way he knew: He took her hands in his and prayed.

"Heavenly Father," he began, praying for Diaz to find housing and be reunited with her belongings. "Let these trucks take it and bring it back to her, Father. It is hers. I don't care what people say . . . but it's hers, Father. It's hers."

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