Several women at Our Lady’s Guild House (OLGH), a rooming house in the Fenway intended to provide housing to low-and moderate-income women, have been fighting eviction for over a year. The building is owned by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Connecticut, and managed by Marc Roos Realty, which wants the women to leave so it can be operated as a short-term residence for students and young professionals. Several rallies have been held to spread the word about this issue, but now the women and the Fenway Community Development Corporation (CDC), along with City Life/Vida Urbana are taking it one step further.
After several community meetings, the Fenway CDC and City Life/Vida Urbana have decided to send a bus to Berlin, Conn., to gather outside the nuns’ residence and make sure they are aware of what is happening to these women. They held a meeting on July 11 to coordinate plans for the bus trip.
According to Colleen Fitzpatrick of the Fenway CDC, July 2018 was the lease end date for about a dozen women living at OLGH. Some women left, and others chose to stay and fight the evictions. “Everyone who has chosen to fight eviction has been able to stay,” Fitzpatrick said, but that doesn’t mean the work is over.
Fitzpatrick said they have negotiated for a global settlement, but have not been able to reach a satisfactory solution. They have met with the Attorney General, who agreed to investigate the situation. They are now in a period of investigation that has been extended to October, and Fitzpatrick said she’s not sure what the outcome will be.
Alex Ponte-Capellan, Community Organizer for City Life/Vida Urbana, said that evictions are happening all over the city, but what sets this station apart from others is the fact that it is clear age discrimination and that it is being used to make profit. People are openly discriminated against on the OLGH website based on age, and several women have been told by management that they do not rent to older people, he said. Additionally, the building is supposed to be a charitable asset as affordable housing for women but instead it is being used to generate profit. “These are the main reasons why it’s gotten so much attention,” Ponte-Capellan said.
Margaret Turner of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) said that those running OLGH have practiced “blatant age discrimination and disability discrimination” as they have language in their leases saying that people might have to leave if they become disabled. She said they have also been charging broker’s fees for tenants moving into the building even if the lease is extended for a few months. She said that GLBS wants the Attorney General’s office to “require them to go back to the charitable purpose of providing affordable housing for low and moderate income women.”
“We’re hoping they’ll be as aggressive as possible,” she said of the Attorney General’s office. If the Daughters won’t do it, maybe it could be sold to a nonprofit or someone who would, she added.
Judy Burnette of City Live/Vida Urbana and a resident of OLGH, said that a plan for the building was for it to become an Airbnb, and through that is no longer going to happen, she said there are still “major renovations” being done in the building. The kitchens and bathrooms are going to be renovated, and she said that there are now “child size” toilets with plastic toilet seats, and the porcelain tubs that added character to the building have been replaced with standard tubs.
As far as the bus trip goes, it’s scheduled for Saturday, July 27, making one stop in Jamaica Plain and one stop in the Fenway to pick people up before it heads to Connecticut. It will be an all day trip with boxed lunches provided. Prior to leaving, there will be a rally in Fenway to send attendees off. The trip is open to anyone who wants to go, but the rally is a chance for supporters who can’t make the day trip to participate in the effort “We’re encouraging both current and former tenants to come forward. We have to keep organizing, keep public attention on this,” Fitzpatrick said. Once in New Britain, they will go before the nuns and Mother Jennifer with signs, music, and chants to let them know they are not satisfied with the situation.
“We want to do everything we can to push this forward,” Fitzpatrick said. More information on the bus trip and the link to sign up can be found on City Life/Vida Urbana’s Facebook page.