Family facing eviction gets apartment after campaign garners attention

Stephanie Kelly, City Editor

An Evanston family who faced eviction this week is preparing to move into a new home after an online campaign started by a friend caught the attention of a building owner who had previously rejected the family’s apartment application.

Joanna Broder started a campaign for the Watson family through the website FundRazr when the family faced eviction from their Evanston residence. The campaign has raised more than $10,700 for the Watsons in about a week and gained the attention of local media outlets, including The Daily, as well as that of a building owner who had initially rejected their application because of the family’s credit history.

The Watsons were offered the apartment this week. The unit will cost $1,150 per month for 12 months, or $13,800 total, according to an update on the FundRazr page. The Watson family includes wife Laurel, son Paul, 7, and Laurel’s husband, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“It’s a huge relief that we have some place to go,” Laurel Watson told The Daily. “We were afraid that we were going to have to be sleeping on a friend’s living room floor or in a vehicle in this cold weather.”

Watson said the building owner was more lenient than in the past and did not require a co-signer or multiple months’ pay of security in advance.

“They really are taking a leap of faith,” she said.

Broder suggested the FundRazr campaign over the summer, and Watson said she never imagined the impact the campaign would have. She said she expected people to give a little bit of money but never as much as she has received.

The Watsons have also used local legal and financial assistance services. The ARK, a Chicago area nonprofit that assists Jewish families in need, has provided many services for the Watsons, including offering to pay the new apartment’s security deposit, which ended up not being required, Watson said. However, The ARK will pay the family’s first month’s rent, she said.

The ARK is a “safety net” for Chicago area Jews, the agency’s clinical director Victoria Hass said. It has a shelter and offers services such as financial assistance, rental assistance, moving assistance, a thrift shop and a pharmacy.

With the money from the campaign, the Watson family will work on getting situated in their new apartment, Broder said. Laurel Watson will also look for a job, and her husband will try to extend his current job contract, which might run out in the spring, Broder added.

“They’re going to work on getting things in place so that they can have a calm, peaceful home, however modest it might be, and put the pieces of their lives back together a little bit because everything’s been so shaken up,” Broder said.

Broder has only raised a little over half of the campaign’s targeted $20,000 as of Thursday. She is still receiving donations and said she hopes people continue donating, since the Watson family will have to work hard in the next couple of months to secure stability.

The campaign, called “A Home for Paul,” was named for Watson’s son Paul, Broder said.

Watson said her son is excited about the new apartment despite having to give up a few toys during the moving process. She added he is especially excited to be moving near a classmate and close to a library.

“It just blows my mind,” Watson said. “I never thought that this was possible or that people could or would respond the way they have and I’m so grateful. I was raised an existentialist by my dad who was a philosophy professor, but I really feel like what else is there to say besides, ‘Thank God.’”

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