Unemployment benefits have expired, rent is due today, and many Georgia families are at risk of eviction in the middle of a pandemic,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) wrote in a tweet in August 2020, charging that by failing to act, his political opponents were “clearly only concerned with serving their own interests.”
It may be good political rhetoric, but Warnock’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the senator serves as senior pastor—drawing a salary as well as a generous $7,417 monthly housing allowance—has moved to pevict disadvantaged residents from an apartment building it owns, one of whom it tried to push out on account of merely $28.55 in past-due.
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice,
But when a wicked man rules, people groan.” Proverbs 29:2
The church is the 99 percent owner of the Columbia Tower at MLK Village in downtown Atlanta, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, which describe the building as a home for the “chronically homeless” and those with “mental disabilities.”
A dozen eviction lawsuits were filed against Columbia Tower residents over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, the first one in February 2020 and, most recently, in September 2022. The total sum of past-due rent cited in the lawsuits is just $4,900, a figure that could have been covered by one of Warnock’s monthly housing stipends from the church.
The lawsuits were filed by Ebenezer Baptist Church’s business partner, Columbia Residential, the 1 percent owner of the building, which manages its day-to-day operations. The revelations threaten to undermine Warnock’s efforts to cast himself as an ally of struggling Georgians working to meet rent in the face of pandemic-era challenges.
Ebenezer is not hard-up for cash—audited financial statements obtained by the Free Beacon show that Ebenezer closed out 2021 with cash and “cash equivalents” exceeding $1.2 million—and it is unclear why Columbia Residential moved so aggressively to evict its tenants.
Columbia Tower residents, who told the Free Beacon they were unaware that Ebenezer Baptist Church owns their building, described living under the rule of landlords who don’t hesitate to go to court to evict them and their neighbors, even if they’re just a few days short on rent.
“They treat me like a piece of shit. They’re not compassionate at all,” said Columbia Tower resident Phillip White, a 69-year-old African American who says he served in Vietnam and received an eviction notice on Sept. 20 for failure to meet a $192 rent payment. It was Columbia Tower’s second attempt to evict White, who received his first eviction notice in September 2021 for $179 in past-due rent. That case was dropped after White paid up, plus an additional $325 in fees, he told the Free Beacon.
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