In the city of Omaha, Nebraska, residents have been facing unjust evictions for far too long. This year, there have been higher threats of eviction for all residents since 2017. People in the city are forced to find rehoming options at the drop of a hat. Often they are forced into homeless shelters or even the streets. The Omaha Housing Authority has been the biggest contributor to the evictions. In 2023, they have filed to evict more than 400 tenants. About 85% of the tenants have had outstanding balances, many of which were less than $100.
One such resident who faced eviction from the Omaha Housing Authority was Bob Peniska. He lived in the Benson Tower for almost 10 years as a disabled man living on his own. Forcefully, he was evicted and set up a tent for himself in Iowa. He lived in public housing for years due to his disability and inability to find stable work. Peniska was placed in a probationary period after an altercation with another resident. The OHA refused to accept his rent checks until the probation ended, as they “cannot accept rent from a tenant they may want to evict for a lease violation.” Then when his probation ended, he was taken to eviction court for owing $2,600 in back rent, the amount that accrued whilst the organization refused to take his rent checks. He was kicked out shortly thereafter and forced to live on the streets.
Unfortunately, Peniska’s story is not an isolated one as OHA has been evicting people unjustly all year.
There were at least 50 other tenants living under the Omaha Housing Authority who the OHA filed to evict multiple times. Statistics showed that some of the evictions were over incredibly low amounts of money, one being as low as $35. Oftentimes, even when the resident could pay the amount owed, the Omaha Housing Authority refused the payment, continuing on with the eviction.
Community advocates have begun to call out the OHA for their poor practices. One local activist, Cheryl Weston, said “Public Housing exists because there is a need. If you’re not going to provide that, don’t get into it. Get out of it.” Meanwhile, the CEO of OHA, Joanie Poore, defending the agency’s actions, stating they are trying to serve their community because they do care about them, while also maintaining compliance with rules and regulations the organization has in place.