Statement from The Coalition to Protect Missouri Tenants:
Today is May 1 and rent is due. In the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis and economic downturn, tens of thousands of Missourians cannot pay. Yesterday, 53 tenants, organized by the Coalition to Protect Missouri Tenants, descended on the Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Mo., to “evict” Governor Mike Parson for default in his obligation to protect and serve the people of Missouri.
Many Missourians are now facing evictions or massive debts — with no way to fight back. Missouri courts have begun putting people out of their homes using “remote” proceedings. As of now, Missouri is the only state initiating such a process. The courts have not announced any accommodation for people without phone or internet access, or for individuals living with disabilities. Put simply, this destroys any notion of “due process.”
Yesterday, 75 families faced eviction by conference call in Kansas City.
Tenants gathered at the Capitol yesterday, rallying for the Governor to suspend rents and mortgage payments, enact a statewide eviction moratorium, and more. Each speaker addressed the crowd as a “representative” of 34,169 tenants; in total, the group “represented” all 1.8 million renters in Missouri. 1,200+ participants joined through the Facebook Live stream and #ProtectMOTenants and #CancelRent.
Participants followed strict social distancing protocol by wearing masks and gloves, traveling to the Capital with quarantine housemates, and remaining six feet apart at all times.
“Across the country, almost 30 million people have filed for unemployment. And still more, like me, are working but financially strapped due to the pandemic,” said Jenay Manley, a Kansas City tenant and leader with KC Tenants. “On May 1 the rent is due, but millions won’t be able to pay. Those who do pay are being forced to make decisions between rent and food, or their medications and housing. It doesn’t have to be like this; the Governor must act. If not, he must abandon the Governor’s mansion. We pay for it, it’s the People’s House, and we’re gonna need it.”
“My family was bankrupted by the Great Recession in 2008. We wouldn’t have had anywhere to go had my grandma not been living in Missouri,” said Deanne Lyons, a Rolla tenant. “It’s been over a decade, but that kind of trauma doesn’t just leave a person. My nightmare is thousands of other Missourians facing the same nightmare now.”
“I was an employee of the State of Missouri. Now, I am laid off. I will not be able to pay rent in June. Governor Parson, I was YOUR employee, and I will be facing eviction on your watch,” said Shuron Jones, a St. Louis tenant and leader with Homes for All St. Louis. “Imagine, Governor Parson, thousands of Missourians facing homelessness due to YOUR inaction.”
“I’ll be back to work tomorrow morning cooking for people because they’re my friends, my neighbors, and my community. I’ve got love for them and I feel a responsibility to them, just like I do for my staff,” said Chef Howard Hanna, a Kansas City tenant and Chef/Partner at The Rieger and Ça Va, “I’ll go back to KC and do my job to keep feeding people, but we’re here today to demand that you do yours. Your people are hurting right now, and we need you. And until you show up for us, we’ll keep showing up to tell you – do your job!”
The Coalition to Protect Missouri Tenants includes over 50 community, labor, and faith organizations, including KC Tenants, Missouri Jobs with Justice, Action St. Louis, Homes for All St. Louis, Missouri NAACP, Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance, Renew Missouri, Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, Team TIF St. Louis, Service Employees International Union – Healthcare MO/KS, Service Employees International Union Local 1, Service Employees International Union State Council, United Auto Workers Local 249.