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Mom fights illegal eviction after unexpected homebirth

Emma Westmoreland and her daughters Car'Mani and Le'Aydra smile on the porch of their apartment.

When Emma Westmoreland’s water broke, she called the ambulance.

“I hear them coming, but I’m like, ‘Oh no! She’s coming!’” Westmoreland said. “Car’Mani was born right there in my apartment.”

Mom and baby were in good health, but the hasty homebirth led to other complications. In the bleary days of newborn motherhood, Westmoreland had trouble securing a birth certificate — a typically seamless process with hospital births.

Unable to recertify her housing subsidy without the birth certificate, Westmoreland faced eviction unless she paid market rate at $822/ month for the modest unit.

“I was so stressed out because I was going to be homeless with my kids,” Westmoreland said, adding that her job readiness coach at OhioGuidestone brought her to Legal Aid, where staff attorney Michael Russell took her case.

Russell felt the urgency of the situation. An eviction from a federally subsidized home could lock a family out of all other federally subsidized housing for up to five years.
“She didn’t have any family to stay with, nowhere to go,” Russell said. “But through the case and through her hard work, she got Car’Mani’s birth certificate, she got her Social Security card, and she beat the eviction.”

With Legal Aid’s help, Westmoreland presented Car’Mani’s documentation to the property manager before her trial. But the company insisted on the eviction unless she paid thousands in unwarranted back rent. In response, Russell filed a trial brief detailing the company’s unlawful efforts to force the family out of their home: failure to send all the required notices, incorrect information on notices they did send, and failure to consider Westmoreland’s unique circumstances.

Seeing the evidence stacked against them, the company dropped the eviction the day of the trial. For Westmoreland, the threat of homelessness disappeared as suddenly as Car’Mani had arrived two years before.

Now that the days of running around to file and refile paperwork have passed, Westmoreland can focus on her daughters—headed to preschool this fall— and on her new job doing special event security with the Cleveland Browns.

“I appreciate everybody who helped me,” Westmoreland said, “because I was doing everything, but it still wasn’t enough. When I finally got through this, I felt so happy and blessed.”

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