Eviction companies in Washington, D.C., have been recruiting hordes of homeless men and paying them illegal wages to toss the belongings of evicted tenants out onto the street.
According to an extensive investigative report published by Washington City Paper, eviction vans from various companies sit outside the locations of non-profit organizations and attempt to recruit the homeless for wages as low as $7 a day to move out tenants belongings after landlords obtain eviction orders.
“Everybody here has gone [on the trucks] a couple times,” “Antman” Kenny, a homeless man, told Washington City Paper. “At first they were paying $20, then $10, now $7. Soon they’ll be chopping people up for $7. Seven punk-ass dollars.”
One of the places these vans choose to idle around is S.O.M.E (So Others May Eat) because they know they’ll be able to recruit from a pool of workers that can be taken advantage of. First, these workers will take whatever wage they can get from these eviction companies. Second, since these companies have far more power relative to workers, the companies will often withhold wages until the job is done, which may take several hours to a day to complete. Third, companies often change the agreed upon wages during the course of the day. And fourth, homeless workers don’t complain at the lack of insurance on the job.
These companies, like Crawford & Crawford and East Coast Express, know they won’t meet any kind of serious resistance to the illegal wages they dole out, as many of the homeless are addicts desperate for any money at all.
In fact, these companies go out of their way to hire addicts for the job.
“They don’t often take ‘us,'” homeless man Jason James told Washington City Paper. “You gotta have an addiction [to get chosen], because he gotta take his fix, so he’ll take whatever you give him.”
The only equipment the homeless receive for the job are trash bags.
To make up for the low wages and poor equipment, the homeless sometimes steal people’s belongings as they move them out of the eviction location.
Eviction is big business in D.C. There were 1,567 evictions successfully executed in 2016 out of a total of 32,590 evictions sought.
Part of the reason eviction companies try and push for cheap labor is because the U.S. Marshals Service mandates very large eviction crews, driving up the cost for landlords. For a single family home, the 25 people are required. For a two-bedroom apartment, 20 people.
In 2006, lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of homeless workers against eight eviction companies. The suit stated that these eviction companies artificially kept wages low. While the courts have tried to crack down on these eviction companies, dodging the law is quite easy because new companies can form virtually overnight. All that’s needed is a new truck and a steady supply of willing labor.
This practice has taken place since as early as 1999.
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