A Virginia family’s new year may be off to a pretty heartbreaking start: The family says they’re facing eviction from their apartment because their 10-year-old developmentally delayed son is “too loud” for their landlord.
By all accounts, Elder Diaz is a pretty happy kid despite the challenges he’s overcome: According to his parents, a severe beating by a child care provider when Elder was just a few months old left their son with developmental delays and seizures.
That on its own is a pretty heartbreaking story. Who can imagine trusting someone with the care of a precious child only to have that trust obliterated when a caregiver’s brutality leaves such a lasting impact on an innocent life?
But it gets worse.
The Diazes of Arlington, Virginia, are now facing eviction because of Elder’s tendency to make a lot of noise. Loud noise that includes singing and laughing, particularly when he gets excited. Parents of children with special needs know that this kind of behavior can be part and parcel of caring for a child who needs extra attention, who may not understand what is or isn’t socially acceptable or who may not even be physically capable of simply “keeping it down.”
The person complaining, a woman who is both the Diazes’ downstairs neighbor and landlord, knew that this might be part of the bargain as well: The Diaz family told a local news outlet that before they even moved in, they engaged in a discussion with the woman about Elder’s needs, even providing her with a pediatrician’s note.
Unfortunately for them, she’s decided that enough is enough and has given the family until New Year’s Day to move out of their three-bedroom apartment. She did offer them a more expensive, smaller apartment, but the family couldn’t take her up on the offer. They simply could not afford to.
Obviously we know only one side of the story — the Diazes’. But even with just that information, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which this lady might be right for giving them the boot. Surely there must be some other solution that could be reached in a situation like this one.
Yes, it can be hard to know what direction to go in when the actions of a child — through no fault of their own — begin to affect other people’s lives and well-being, especially when that child has special needs. But it’s clear that the Diaz family will be affected as well, to a larger degree. In fact, it already appears to have been: The parents are hesitant to let their two children even open the pile of unwrapped presents under the Christmas tree in their apartment because they are afraid the pair will get too excited and therefore too noisy.
And that’s just really, really sad.
But put that aside for a moment. Sure, it’s sad that a kid can’t have their presents on Christmas. Worse by far is that this family might just find themselves out on the street. This is a family that has already dealt with the fallout that one heartless individual inflicted on them when that person abused their son in a way that affected his development.
Now they are up against another heartless person who, instead of working with them to find a situation in which every party can be comfortable and safe, would rather see them out on the street with a special needs child. And why? Because it gets noisy?
Lots of people live in apartments, and lots of people have noisy neighbors (a vast majority of whom are not 10-year-olds with special needs) who keep the floors shaking and shout through paper-thin walls, and it is always inconvenient. But it isn’t unfixable or the end of the world.
It’s possible that this woman is entirely within her rights to kick the Diaz family out. But what’s “within rights” and what’s actually right are two very different things.
A little compassion can go a long, long way.