Memphis Woman With Coronavirus Evicted From Home Over Medical Debt That Isn't Hers

A Memphis woman was evicted from her home earlier this week over medical debt belonging to her mother-in-law, weeks after the moratorium on evictions lifted in the state.

Leslie Nelson, 56, was confronted by a process server sent to evict heras she was home recovering from COVID-19. According to the Commercial Appeal, Nelson inherited the house from her mother-in-law who died years ago and accumulated medical debt. In a video shared on Facebook, Nelson said she had communicated with a process server prior to them showing up. After that, she said that an attorney called her and then the movers unexpectedly showed up at her house.

Nelson said the eviction was unexpected. "I offered to pay," Nelson told the Appeal. "But he didn't even give me a warning. He just sent movers over here, and they showed up with police officers." The officers were from the Memphis Police Department, she said.

After speaking to the movers, Nelson said she posted on Facebook for help, and volunteers came to her assistance, tried to comfort her and move her belongings.

WREG-TV reported that the eviction became hostile when a process server took an antique rifle from the home. At one point, the station reported, the server pointed the rifle at Nelson when she attempted to take it from him. The server later told her he would return the rifle before he left.

Nelson had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in June, following a visit with a friend who was also diagnosed with the virus. She spent days in the hospital but was released weeks ago. Nelson, who suffers from epilepsy, said that the stress of being evicted caused many of her symptoms to resurface. WREG reported she was hospitalized on Thursday night following the encounter. Posts to her Facebook show that she's since been released.

In a public Facebook post, Nelson wrote that she had a seizure and was having trouble breathing following the eviction. She also said that she was coughing and had a headache. "I have COVID. It's hard to even think," Nelson said in a video shared to Facebook.

In the video, Nelson said that she wasn't supposed to be evicted because she has coronavirus. "The health department called them and said, 'y'all can't kick anybody out with COVID, it's a health issue," she told an officer in the video. However, Tennessee courts began hearing eviction cases again on June 1 per a ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Nelson told the Appeal that situations like hers will likely occur again, and she wants to help people in the future. "[N]ext time, I want to be the one that shows up to help," she said.

In her Facebook post, she said she is sympathetic to people who may be less fortunate than her. "What happened to me yesterday is the start of a movement. I have support. What about those poor souls that don't? Mostly people of color, people in the lower income bracket are going to be targeted & evicted," she wrote.

Nelson reiterated those points to Newsweek in an email. "I'm so scared, my heart & soul hurts for people that maybe don't have the support group like I do. I have to turn this into a way to help others. We are meeting with other activities today, putting together a group that will be able to help people facing evection's [sic]," she wrote. Nelson did not respond to an email with further questions about the eviction in time for publication.

A GoFundMe has since been started for Nelson and has raised over $7,000. On Facebook, she wrote that funds that aren't used by her will be donated to others.

Housing activists gather to protest alleged tenant harassment by a landlord and call for cancellation of rent in the Crown Heights neighborhood on July 31, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. Nelson was evicted after being diagnosed with COVID, following a medical debt that she didn't realize the previous home owner had. Scott Heins/Getty