Disabled woman evicted four days from Christmas for being a student

Red tape is forcing a mother and a son out of their apartment just days before Christmas.
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 6:45 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Emilia Olvera has a dream. Born in Mexico, a longtime legal resident of the U.S., she’s raised a family here and now at 59, she’s pursuing an education, expecting to gain a degree in criminal justice and psychology from TMCC in May.

“I want to be somebody. I want to go to school. there’s a lot of opportunity here in the United States.”

At the moment she’s dealing with a more urgent issue. She’s homeless.

Five days ago she and her son received a 5-day eviction notice from her landlord, Ridgeview by Vintage apartments and their owner FPI Management.

They’ve been living for five years at this north Reno complex under a federal Housing Choice voucher, commonly known as Section 8. The program offers housing to the disadvantaged in exchange for tax breaks for the owners. And its rules bar students from taking advantage of it, leaving it for those who need it most and there’s the problem. They are both students at TMCC.

None of this seemed to raise any issues until recently. They were paying their rent on time and apparently there was no issue at all about their status until there was a dispute over money. Emilia was told she’s overpaid and was due a credit. In the discussions that followed things went south.

“Everything changed. the demeanor of the people in the office. They were not talking to me, avoiding me.” And suddenly their status as students was brought up.

Emelia and her son are being evicted because it’s believed both are full-time students, one more than allowed. They dispute this, in fact, so does the school.

In a letter, TMCC’s Financial Aid Coorordinator Nicole Barnes states during the period under question Emlia was, by definition, a full-time student. Her son was not.

But she received the eviction notice. Time ran out. When we caught up with her, she’d emptied her apartment having been evicted. Friends were helping move her belongings into a storage unit.

All this while she’s starting a new semester and, at the moment, in addition to her physical disabilities, dealing with a case of wintertime bronchitis and pneumonia.

We’ve sought comment and explanation from both the apartment owners and management and the Nevada field office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and have yet to receive a response.

The very first line on the Housing and Urban Development web page on Section 8 housing describes the program as existing “to assist very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled.” In this case, it seems to be working against that goal.

“I’m always the person who advocates for other people in a worse position or have less than I do,” says Emilia, “and now here I am. Nobody advocates for me, just channel 8. Nobody else.”