Photo of a girl holding a doll.
Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker /

“Anybody want to work!” shouts a man named Butch as the little white bus fills up with passengers. Another lady and an elderly man are shouting the same as they stand before their little blue vans. These three people are standing outside of S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat) recruiting homeless men and women to carry out evictions. This particular morning, a man named Butch is offering $15.00 per eviction and has two scheduled for the day. The other two people were offering $5.00 each and said they had four scheduled. I decided to take Butch’s offer. The bus finally fills up with 25 people even though there are only 20 seats.

We arrive at our first house which is in Southeast D.C. near the Berry Farms projects. The property turns up empty upon inspection through the windows. When the federal marshal shows up we enter the house. The stove and refrigerator are missing. Butch shouts to one worker, who writes it down on an inventory sheet, and says jokingly that they smoked up the kitchen. This being said after witnessing all the candles, various little plastic bags and an assortment of broken glass tubes with burnt ends. We were asked to get trash bags and fill them with all the trash we could find. This is called a “trash-out.”

Our next destination was a nice brownstone on Capitol Hill. The only items left behind were a large sleeper couch and a bookcase. The door had to be removed to get these items out, which was why they were probably left behind. Now it’s time to get paid. We had to drive 45 minutes to Crofton, Md., which is the main office. We exited the bus after waiting another half hour. We stood in line and received our money. We started out at 9:15 and when we got back to D.C. it was 5 p.m. This was my first day and even though it beat working at Ready Staffing, on the average with waiting and driving time I only made around $4.00 an hour.

The next morning I go back to SOME and await the return of the little white bus. While I am waiting an elderly African man pulls up in front of the building in a rickety old blue passenger van. Shortly after several white vans arrive looking for new recruits. I am told by one of the men I worked with yesterday that Butch picked up his regular people on Florida Avenue for a job in Baltimore. This is when I got on the blue van. The driver said there would be three jobs: one paying $15 and the other two, $5 each.

Our first stop was a cancellation because the tenant came up with his rent money as the Marshal arrived. The second stop was at a residence on 16th Street in Northwest. The house was large and was fully furnished. The landlord was outside attempting to contact the tenant one last time. Finally we were ordered to go on. We were soon joined by two more vans carrying 25 people. After about 2 hours the house and the garage were emptied and all the belongings and furniture were placed on the curb.

The final place was an apartment unit on Irving Street in Northwest. As we arrived a young lady in her early 20s with her daughter, who appeared to be about three, was standing in the entrance of the hall pleading with the residence manager for more time. She claimed her grandmother was going to wire the money but the manager told her it’s too late. The woman started crying and screaming hysterically
and her daughter ran back into the apartment. We were ordered to go in and start putting her things on the curb. As I approached the little girl’s room, she was standing inside clutching her dolls. The look on her face was so sad and instantly it reminded me of my daughter when she was that age. Right there and then I walked out and decided this would be my last eviction. I just couldn’t do it.

Here I was homeless myself at the time, about to make two more people homeless.

Read the accompanying expose “Homeless People Hired to Evict Tenants.”