A group of single mothers argued at a hearing Tuesday that they shouldn't be evicted from Charleston's Gadsden Green public housing just because their children were arrested in October for two armed robbery incidents.
Attorneys said the hearing officer, Ramona Gourdine, had up to 10 days to decide what to do.
On Saturday, less than a week after the mothers pleaded their case, they each received notices by mail denying their appeal.
"That's way too quick," said City Councilman Wendell Gilliard, who has spoken out against eviction attempts.
Gourdine wrote that although making her decision was "not at all easy," the bottom line was that the terms of the leases were violated and she supported the Housing Authority's move to evict.
The Housing Authority contends that serious criminal charges against any individual resident allow the authority to evict the entire family for the good of their neighbors. Tenants sign a lease that includes a zero-tolerance policy for serious or repeat offenses.
The policy has been controversial in Charleston and elsewhere along with similar rules.
Gadsden Green is a complex of apartment buildings that houses 262 families near the Crosstown Expressway between Hagood and President streets.
Senora Redden, one of the mothers being evicted, said she is unsure when they will have to leave, although Gilliard said a housing authority official has publicly stated the families wouldn't be ousted until after the holidays.
But Redden and at least two of the other five moms involved — Jacqueline Clinton and Rushika Robertson — say they won't just quietly move out, because if they did, at least 25 children could find themselves homeless in the largest eviction of its kind in recent city memory.
They plan to fight being evicted through legal means.
Judging from the dozens of people who rallied Saturday in support, the mothers are far from alone in their efforts.
About 70 men, women and children, many of whom live in Gadsden Green, assembled at Nichols Chapel AME Church in downtown Charleston Saturday to rally for the single moms facing eviction.
Redden told the crowd that she and the other mothers don't condone what their kids have been accused of doing.
She said they had hoped the housing authority would agree to let their families stay at Gadsden Green if the teenage boys charged in crimes were sent away to live elsewhere.
Teenage sons from the five families were arrested in October for allegedly confronting two people in separate incidents near the College of Charleston in October. Police said a pellet gun was used in both cases and that six youths on bicycles were involved.
The teens were charged with robbery and attempted armed robbery but have not been convicted.
"We did not permit these children to do this," Redden said. "Again, they are children, the youngest being 13 and the oldest being 16. ... Let these other children have a place to live. Give them a chance."
As she spoke, about half of the 25 or so children that the single mothers have among them watched from a table at the front of the room.
"I'm not only fighting for these children here," Redden said as she looked to the kids' table. "I'm fighting for everyone on public housing, Section 8, all through the state of South Carolina and nationally."
Gilliard called the housing authority officials "cold-hearted and gutless" for attempting to evict the single moms and their kids.
"If these ladies were to leave today, they would be homeless," he said. "Maybe that will ring a bell. I want everyone to understand that."
Gilliard said John F. "Skip" Martin has agreed to represent the mothers pro bono and will appeal the case in magistrate's court.
Gilliard encouraged the rally participants to contact their elected state and local officials for support.
Ruby Washington, a Gadsden Green resident, said she was angry about the situation and would do all that she can to help out.
"Putting these five families on the street? I don't think so."