A Houston couple was evicted and subsequently separated from their 18-month-old daughter after their landlord refused to accept rent relief money from the city of Houston and Harris County.
Phillip Tilley and his partner Christine Outhouse applied to the Houston-Harris County rent relief program, hoping it would keep them and their 18-month-old daughter Parker from losing their apartment at the Arbors on Westheimer Road, a sprawling 360-unit complex.
Their application was approved. Their landlord received a check for nearly $7,000. But the landlord decided to return the money and evict the family anyway, according to court transcripts.
Tilley and his daughter were watching a movie when around a dozen constables and movers came through the door on a hot morning at the end of July.
“I had no idea what was going on,” Tilley said. “I’ve got her just like, clenched to me as hard as she possibly could. She was scared out of her mind. I was scared.”
The couple had filed a form to be protected under a national eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the landlord’s attorneys argued it didn’t apply to them, according to court transcripts. Harris County Judge Jeff Williams ruled to evict them.
Tilley said on the day of the eviction, movers threw everything the couple owned outside in garbage bags. People walked by and helped themselves. Their dog was tied to a post outside in the heat, he said.
“Everybody just comes and does whatever they want to it, and take it and steal from you and you don’t even get a chance to do anything with it, and then it rains all over everything,” Tilley said. “And all we can fit in our car is me, Christine, our daughter and our dog. There’s not much room left for anything else.”
Outhouse said one of her friends called Child Protective Services and reported that the couple was lying about getting evicted.
The friend’s reasoning, Outhouse said: How could they possibly have been evicted if it was illegal to evict people under the national moratorium?
Tilley and Outhouse scrambled to find an inexpensive hotel. CPS workers visited the hotel, Outhouse said, and told her it wasn’t a safe place for a baby. Her family drove from New York to Houston overnight without stopping to get Parker, afraid that she would be placed in foster care.
They brought her back to New York.
“I think we really just felt pretty beaten down and lost,” Outhouse said. “Like how did we get here?”
Houston Public Media reached out to the property owners at the Arbors on Westheimer and their attorneys at the law firm Hoover Slovacek, but neither commented for this story.