Wilma Hughes, a 77-year-old landlord in Lafayette, Mississippi, reportedly evicted her disabled tenant, 31-year-old Whitney Wages, in late July after the latter made a Facebook post criticizing Donald Trump. Wages reportedly shared a screenshot of an October 2019 tweet that read, “How this ends? Let me tell you. He loses. He’s exposed as a fraud. A failure. A criminal. A traitor. Humiliated. Handcuffed. It ends with a ruined GOP. With kids at last freed from cages. And then we rebuild. We heal. That’s how this ends. Watch,” to Facebook on July 22.
On her Facebook post, her landlord commented on July 23, “Well I don,t know you at all_ a lot of stuff you pass on_ I can not comprehend_ but Trump is not POS_!!!¡” The same day, in response to another person in the comments, Wages wrote, “This is my landlord and she just told me I have 30 days to vacate the property over this post.”
Following this, Wages shared screenshots of her text exchanges with Hughes, who wrote, “I do not want to live with a negative person like your self,” adding that Wages had 30-45 days to vacate the property. In more screenshots shared by Wages, Hughes said on texts, “You get all this free unemployment money_after you Had quit your jobs_ how much of that did you pay on student loans!? None because you will never pay_ say it isn,t so?” She also wrote, “My money pays your SSI, medicare, food stamps, unpaid tuition, etc_ can you not even try to understand??”
According to Mississippi Today, Wages has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia. She also struggles with joint pain and sciatica. The same report states that Wages receives $794 in social security benefits due to her disability, meaning that she can’t earn more than $1,260 a month at any job. The report further stated that Wages had left her prep cook job at Proud Larry’s restaurant because she was planning to start substitute teaching at Lafayette County School District. That opportunity fell through in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in March because she didn’t have internet access to teach remotely. She also left a part-time job at local market and restaurant Chicory Market in March, fearing for her health.
Hughes, as per Newsweek wrote on her own Facebook, “I do know if I own land, rental house, pay taxes and up keep_ I do not have to have a welfare POS living there. I am not against empty house_ some things you just can,t digest!” This post is no longer visible on Hughes’ profile because of changed privacy settings. The same report also said that despite her support of Trump, Hughes made $600 worth of political donations to the election campaign of Democratic President Barack Obama in 2008.
“They don’t even know what welfare even means. They just assume it’s free money, so, therefore, I live a luscious lifestyle and I’m like, ‘Do I?’” Wages told Mississippi Today. “I’m grateful I can put gas in my car when I can … I’m grateful that I can, you know, feed myself. I’m really grateful when I can decide what to feed myself and not have to go to the food pantry.”
According to Desiree Hensley, who runs the Housing Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law, the state’s housing laws heavily favor landlords, resulting in outcomes for renters that are “completely personality-driven”. Hensley further told Mississippi Today that neither “political opinions nor socioeconomic class” describe protected groups under the federal Fair Housing Act, so while this situation might constitute discrimination, “It’s just not a type of discrimination that is unlawful if a private landlord does it.”
Wages started a GoFundMe campaign in the aftermath of the eviction. “I do not feel safe going back on the property. I have been accused of stealing things, my outdoor plants have been threatened with weed killer, and I have been terrorized through text messages,” wrote Wages in the campaign. “I honestly do not want this to ever happen again to me. I need safety. I need to thrive in order to survive this. Right now, I am living at my partner’s home and have all of my things in storage because I have not been able to secure section 8 housing that is within a price range I can afford, safe, sanitary, accessible, and cat friendly(Wilson is in the picture with me, he has been in my life since 2014). I do not know when that will happen if it will happen…but I am exhausted from the search itself. I have made over 200 phone calls since July 24, 2020, just to be shut down after asking the question ‘Do you take section 8?’”
At the time of writing this report, the Wages had raised $1,832 of the $2,500 target.