Several of the Gadsden Five, the women who, along with their families, face eviction from public housing because their teenage children were charged with crimes, appealed Tuesday to Charleston City Council for help.
They received sympathy but little else.
"I have nowhere else to go if I'm put out on the street," said Jacqueline Clinton, a single mother of six. "I'm not asking for a handout but a second chance."
Clinton and the other women face eviction, along with their many children, because of the October arrests of six of their teenage children on armed robbery charges.
The Charleston Housing Authority has a policy of evicting families whose children are arrested for serious crimes, regardless of whether they are convicted.
The Housing Authority's board is chosen by Mayor Joe Riley with the consent of council.
Councilman Wendell Gilliard made it clear Tuesday that he wants the city to intervene. Riley called the situation "heartbreaking" but said the Housing Authority's zero-tolerance policy is an important crime-fighting tool.
Rushia Robertson, another of the parents, said none of them condone bad behavior, but no parent can watch their child every moment. Robertson is studying to become a nurse, and one of her seven children was among those arrested in October.
"It's like double-jeopardy," Robertson told council; her child faces criminal charges, but she faces eviction with her other children.
Gilliard said the city needs to examine the Housing Authority's policies.
Council members Paul Tinkler and Anne Frances Bleecker, both attorneys, offered to help Gilliard review the leases that the Housing Authority has determined that the women violated.
"This particular incident here, these parents were caught up in a bad situation," Gilliard said. "Is it right for the parents, who were at home, or in school trying to better themselves, to be punished?"
Tinkler said the punishment seems unduly harsh, but Riley urged council to delay any potential action.
"I really think we need to gather all the information," he said. "Having a zero-tolerance policy in public housing is very important."
Gilliard said two dozen children could be left homeless if the authority goes through with the evictions. Gilliard said he's conservative and tough on crime, "but my beef is not with children."
"I know they listened," said Elizabeth Speed, another of the mothers. "I hope they will help."
The women live at Gadsden Green, a complex that houses 262 families near the Crosstown Expressway between Hagood and President streets.