Samantha Doyon-Wentworth is a single mother living with her son in an office space illegally. She's been on Section 8 waiting lists for a long time. Deb Cram/ and

Eviction leaves single mom homeless

By Kyle Stucker

Samantha Doyon-Wentworth has a place to sleep indoors, but by no means is it a home.

The homeless single mother has been illegally living with her son in a local office space for a period of time. The circumstances allowing her to stay there are being kept private.

Her temporary home has just two rooms. There is no bathroom, stove or shower, although she can gain access to a toilet and sink down a hallway that is attached to the office. Clothes and her son’s toys lie in piles on their only bed and along just about every inch of wall space. A miniature fridge, toaster oven and microwave serve as their main lifelines, while a TV allows Samantha’s 7-year-old son to play video games to distract from a situation that has no clear end in sight.

“It literally makes me sick to my stomach,” says Samantha, 26, a Rochester native.

Samantha feels she may be out of options, as the various local housing authorities, landlords, organizations, state services and shelters she’s tried either report long wait times or an inability to help her.

Part of that stems from the fact that she was evicted from her last apartment due to a payment dispute, and because of that eviction the Rochester and Somersworth housing authorities say she is disqualified from receiving housing through them. In a letter from Somersworth to Samantha, it states she isn’t eligible for a couple of housing developments in the Hilltop City because of an “unfavorable” landlord reference.

“It’s almost like they see the eviction and throw the application away,” says Samantha, who volunteers at a local hospital and gets by on a weekly child support check. “I’m not going to lie (on the form), but I might not get my chance to explain it. Some people don’t care. You get one chance and you’re done.”

Seacoast Media Group placed calls to the property manager that evicted Samantha, although those calls weren’t returned.

Cathy Kuhn, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness, says housing authorities have the legal ability to deny individuals different forms of assistance based on what is contained in eviction records, although Seacoast Media Group couldn’t verify whether Samantha’s background meets any of those legal criteria.

Kuhn says she attributes the highly competitive housing market to why there are many people who, like Samantha, can’t find a place that will accept them. She recommends anyone in a similar situation to go to local welfare departments — “the first line of defense,” she says — and other homeless service providers to find immediate help.

“It’s a sad story and it’s unfortunate to say she’s certainly not the only one in a situation like that,” says Kuhn. “In my mind, that’s not acceptable.”

According to Kuhn, NHCEH and social service agencies have been successful in working with landlords and housing authorities to reverse evictions, often by placing tenants on payment plans to show they are willing to pay what’s owed. Samantha has text message records and other documentation that, from what Seacoast Media Group has seen, shows she attempted to pay her property manager the several hundred dollars she owed in rent before the eviction occurred.

Samantha is in the process of fighting the eviction and has contacted the state’s Legal Aid for assistance, although she says she’s not sure if the efforts will go anywhere.

As if some of the struggles weren’t enough, life became temporarily darker recently for Samantha and her son. Their office space was one of the many area buildings that lost power for several days due to the Oct. 30 windstorm, leading to some cold, difficult nights for the family.

She told Seacoast Media Group she wants to share her story to raise awareness of the fact that evictions and the difficult process to fight them in court are hurting families in ways most community members don’t see.

“It needs to be out there,” Samantha says.