Hard times prompted Rudy Person to go into business for himself and hard times keep his business going.

Person, 36, started Person and Associates in his home in Northeast Washington last July to give himself and his relatives stable work. It is one of 16 firms in D.C. that are hired by area landlords to handle the bad news of the recession--evictions, late rent notices and repossessions.

A former full-time process server, Person says he organized his operation after helping out another eviction service that he said treated people shabbily. Several times a week, he hires nine men as his crew and they execute one of the 2,000 evictions that are carried out in the city each year. "I get guys I know, not go to the corner and get a crew. I won't have any drunks and so people's furniture don't get broken up."

Like several other firms in the city, Person takes pride in personally contacting the tenant as soon as an eviction is set to give the person one more chance to pay the back rent, or to pack his possessions. "The hardest part is walking in the place and seeing a baby in a woman's arms," he says. "But I'm trying to be humane. I go to their homes and tell them what's coming, give them time to get the money together. A few of my clients have authorized me to pick up the rents for them. Those who have to be evicted anyway will at least have time to get their things in boxes. There's not too much to like about it, but this way, it gives them a chance."

He charges $125 to clear out a one-bedroom apartment, a task which takes less than an hour.

"Very few people are there when we come to do the eviction," Person says. "Most move out on their own. Some have neatly packed their things for us to move out."

Person also makes a point of knocking on a tenant's door first, instead of taping a late rent payment notice to the door where neighbors can see it. He also says he often refuses to work for a landlord if he sees the property is in bad shape. "Some places are so terrible, I can see why the tenants won't pay the rent."

A life-long Washington resident, Person says he occasionally must evict someone he knows. In those cases, he concentrates on his struggle to meet his own bills and provide for his wife and three children.

His brother-in-law, David Edwards, 25, who earns $6 an hour on the eviction crew, related one such instance. "A neighborhood friend saw us pull up and said, 'You're all not coming down here, Dave?' I had to tell him we were. It's a hurting thing."