RALEIGH — Nettie Grove shuffled to the door on her walker, still wearing her nightgown in the late afternoon, and invited me in for a cup of Sanka and half a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
Id come to hear how Raleigh bought the house she rents on Carver Street and gave her 90 days to move. At age 83. After a stroke.
Bless your cotton-pickin heart, Nettie said, glad for any company.
She sat me at the coffee table where she keeps her Bible and her Ava Gardner biography.
She told me she used to be a third-grade teacher and the wife of a Navy test pilot back when anybody remembered her name.
She told me that once a month, a volunteer drives her to the credit union and the Harris Teeter, where she picks up four weeks worth of groceries.
Then she handed me the news that made me swallow my Sanka down the wrong pipe: Raleigh wants Nettie gone even though theres no pressing need. Nothing imminent is getting built on her lot. The city cant even say for sure whether her house will be demolished.
Nettie frowned and leaned forward on her walker.
You wouldnt want your grandmother treated this way, she said.
But my grandmother drove a car until she died at age 94. She served lunch to people 20 years her junior as a volunteer for Meals On Wheels. She had three children to look in on her.
Nettie has none of those things. The only assurance shell sleep under the roof on Carver Street is a Section 8 voucher, which covers all but $26 of the rent.
Its a mobile document that shuttles federal dollars to the Raleigh Housing Authority, so all Nettie has to do is find some other landlord to take it. Raleigh has promised to help her with logistics and money.
But Nettie worries. She wont know her neighbors. She wont know her street. What if she gets moved someplace too far for the man to take her grocery shopping?
They are trying to look for someplace suitable for me, she said. No drinking. No doping. No hanky-panky.
Netties corner of Southeast Raleigh, which sits a few houses down from St. Augustines University, is accustomed to having the city government move in next door.
Raleigh already owns most of the houses on Netties block, a redevelopment area. But the letter Nettie got back in March said the city might be interested in her house for a possible federal project.
I called the mayors office, Nettie said. She wasnt there. I put it down on the machine. I was mad as fire.
I ran all of this by Octavia Rainey, who lives a block away from Nettie and is something of a force of nature when it comes to neighborhood politics. She hadnt heard of any new building on the way, and she hadnt heard about Raleigh uprooting a senior citizen on a walker.
I do not want her moved, period! she insisted. Theres no reason to do that to an 83-year-old woman.
Twenty minutes later, I got a call from Mitchell Silver, Raleighs planning director.
Octavia called, he said.
Silver explained that the Carver Street move isnt part of his specific bailiwick, but it does fall under his jurisdiction.
We try to be sensitive with seniors, he said. We try to use all care when we sit down with them.
So why move her out?
Raleigh wants to redevelop her area, but it cant until all the underground pipes and wires have been updated. If youve driven down Oakwood Avenue recently, youve seen this update in progress.
But thats blocks and blocks away from Netties house. Nobody knows when a new development might go up on Carver Street. Why put her out now?
Basically, Raleigh doesnt want to be a landlord.
We typically arent property managers, Silver said. We have a lot of options. Ninety days is negotiable. Its my hope shell be able to stay in the area.
Its clean in Netties house. Shes got a nice set of Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham books, and a collection of old movies on VHS. Caine Mutiny. Casablanca.
Let her enjoy them.
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