It’s been a month since Sharnae Hunt returned to her Glen Burnie apartment complex, just days before Thanksgiving, to find the entire contents of her apartment lying in a heap on the curb. As another holiday nears, the life she had built there remains scattered.
Hunt and her 9-year-old son, Jacoby Thomas, were evicted from their home by one of Anne Arundel County’s most frequent evictors, Hendersen-Webb, Inc., a Cockeysville-based property management company, despite having paid her $300 rent balance hours earlier. As previously reported by The Baltimore Banner, the eviction was the result of a “miscommunication,” according to Pamela Newland, Hendersen-Webb’s chief operating officer.
Realizing the mistake, the same crew of haulers who had thrown her belongings to the curb returned to place them back into the apartment.
Between the electronics, shoes, and appliances that had been carted off by those who beat Hunt to the pile, the furniture and TV screens damaged by the hauling crew, the clothes and papers thrown into plastic bags along with food and cleaning supplies, Hunt was determined to keep her son away from a place they had called home.
Gathering the clothes, toys and art that she could salvage, Hunt and her son moved in with her mother and stepfather a couple miles away.
Inside the modest brick house, the family has spent the weeks since the eviction struggling to maneuver around cardboard boxes and plastic bins piled high with clothes, and the pull-out couch where Hunt and Jacoby sleep. At first, they’d fold it back into a vertical position every morning, but they have since conceded most of the living room to it.
“There’s someone sleeping in every room except for my kitchen,” said Karla Cromwell-Floyd, Hunt’s mother, who is currently hosting other relatives, too.
The family has tried to make the best of the cramped situation. Cromwell-Floyd and her grandson make breakfast for the family in the morning — pancakes, waffles, eggs — and Hunt’s stepfather has kept the 9-year-old busy with outings to an NBA game and the Cirque du Soleil.
“I just try to absorb the beauty of what we’re challenged with,” said Cromwell-Floyd.
But she’s worried about her daughter, who has struggled with anxiety since the eviction, often sleeping little more than a few hours a night and finding brief respite from the chaos only by locking herself in the bathroom and scrolling on her cellphone while perched on the edge of the bathtub.
“You work all your life to sustain this lifestyle, the lifestyle that you kind of built,” said Hunt, who works at a laser manufacturing company and also coaches varsity girls basketball. “To turn around and see everything just gone, people stepping on it, dragging it through the dirt, you just try to get through that.”
As she sorted through the mess left in the apartment in the weeks after the eviction, tallying up an inventory of damages at the suggestion of her lawyer, the loss sunk in deeper and deeper.
By the time she got to the final bag, she was in tears. “That was the point where you realize how much stuff had really been taken,” Hunt said. “Certain things that are priceless, you know, like I had hard drives with my kid’s baby pictures on them. All that stuff, gone.”
Moments of relief were fleeting. She found Jacoby’s Social Security card and birth certificate, but hers remained missing. A Christmas gift she’d received from Jacoby when he was in pre-k — a plate imprinted with his two small handprints — was recovered, only to be lost an hour later when it slid off her broken dining room table.
Hunt remains frustrated, too, that her landlord has failed to explain exactly what happened that day. It was only the morning of the eviction that the company informed her of her $300 outstanding balance, and she wasn’t sure how she’d missed it. When she tried to go online to check her payment history, she found that the rent portal was down (The company has failed to respond to multiple requests by Hunt to produce a copy of her payment history). The Hunts were among numerous renters at Tall Pines Apartments evicted by the management company that day. But Hunt says she had received assurances that her balance was satisfied, that the haulers wouldn’t be coming for her things. But they did.
The company did not respond to a question about this from The Baltimore Banner.
Hunt is trying, when she can, to look on the bright side. A GoFundMe site set up by her sister has raised over $8,000. She’s retained a lawyer, and is exploring her legal options; She said the company gave her a $5,000 check but she didn’t plan to cash it. She had been planning to buy a home in a year or so, a timeline that’s now been bumped up. Jacoby might get the dog he’s been hoping for sooner than expected, after animal control took his pet turtle, Mikie, during the eviction.
With Christmas approaching, Hunt and her mother are struggling to bring any normalcy into a very abnormal holiday season. Cromwell-Floyd and Jacoby will build a gingerbread house, as they do every year, and the family will gather for a meal and gifts. While Hunt normally hosts her three stepchildren at her house for Christmas, she’s decided to visit them at their other parents’ houses on Christmas day rather than pile them into her parents’ already cramped house.
“My heart and soul is not in a traditional Christmas,” Cromwell-Floyd said, choking up as her grandson handed her a paper towel. After spending days sorting through the contents of her daughter’s apartment and doing 11 loads of laundry in the 60-pound machines at the laundromat, she couldn’t bring herself to gather the tree decorations from the shed, leaving the tree bare in the living room.
“He asked me the other day if I can help his mom move the boxes,” said Cromwell-Floyd, motioning to Jacoby. “Because Santa can’t get to the Christmas tree.”