A week before two elderly women in Annapolis faced homelessness, legal aid attorneys and county officials intervened to delay their eviction from the Chase Lloyd House.
Mary Mullins, 71, spent the last 2½ weeks franticly packing after she and the four other residents of the Chase Home for older women in need were told they had 30 days to leave the historic house on Maryland Avenue. Peggy Pickall, president of the nonprofit home’s board of trustees, said the house is unsafe to live in without necessary repairs to the wiring and fire escape.
But Mullins and her housemate Fran Taccetta were less concerned about the living conditions and more concerned about where they would go.
“At the blink of an eye, you’re homeless,” Taccetta said.
After attorneys from Maryland Legal Aid and staff of the Department of Aging read a story about their plight in The Capital, they intervened.
Maryland Legal Aid attorney Lisa Sarro said the eviction is unlawful, requiring a court order. Courts are closed and are not taking eviction cases until July as part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s orders during the coronavirus pandemic. With that in mind, Sarro said the home’s lawyer has extended the eviction deadline from the first week of July to July 31.
Rob Lourie, the board’s attorney, and Pickall did not respond for comment.
“They’ve got some time and we are not going anywhere,” Sarro said. “We’re staying with them until they’re situated.”
Meanwhile, the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging and Disabilities said it will ensure the women have a place to stay no matter what. The department is prepared to help the women with emergency housing, navigation for a long term solution and emergency funds for expenses like moving again.
“Nobody will be homeless,” department Director Pam Jordan said. “There’s a safety net for these ladies with our department.”
When they move in, Chase Home residents list a sponsor they can potentially stay with on two-weeks’ notice. Three residents will be moving in with their sponsors next week, but Mullins and Taccetta said they can’t stay with the people they listed.
“We’re all outraged at the concept that these folks can be returned to their original sponsors like foster pets or something,” Sarro said. “It’s really kind of offensive.”
The house is named for its first owner, Samuel Chase, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence for Maryland and an early U.S. Supreme Court justice. Plantation owner Edward Lloyd bought the half-finished home from Chase, giving it the name it has today.
But its legacy comes from Hester Ann Chase, a cousin of Samuel and then the richest woman in Annapolis. She bought the home in 1846 to raise her three orphan nieces.
When she died, the last surviving of those nieces, Hester Ann Chase Ridout established the house in her own will in 1886 as an independent living facility for elderly women and set up a board of trustees to run the home.
After 135 years, it’s unclear if the house will continue to be used for that purpose. Pickall said in an earlier interview that she’s unsure when it will be livable again.
In announcing the house’s closure on their website, the board said it paid for a full assessment of from Virginia-based firm MTFA Architecture/John Milner Associates Preservation. That survey revealed significant safety issues including a hazardous three-story side porch emergency exit, the only fire escape to the building, faulty antiquated electrical wiring and a compromised building foundation, according to the board’s announcement.
The Board said it then determined the residents needed to move out as repairs are made, which was disclosed to them in the first week of June with a 30-day deadline.
The City of Annapolis licensing database, Etrakit, indicates that the Chase Home passed its most recent Fire Safety Inspection last year. The Chase Home holds a City of Annapolis rental license valid through May 1, 2021, Sarro said.
She said that makes the eviction on safety grounds illegal. Maryland Legal Aid
“These are vulnerable tenants who are afraid when they’re told that they and their stuff are going to be put out if they don’t do as they’re told,” Sarro said.
“If there wasn’t a virus, I’d be running over there to stop them myself personally.”
In the midst of conversations between Sarro and the board’s attorney, Mullins and Taccetta have been unsure whether to stop packing or hurry up. The new deadline is helpful, they said, but still stressful.
“I feel better because I have a little bit of time but it’s still a traumatic thing,” Taccetta said. “I’m kind of mixed up and I’m kind of sad.”