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Memphis woman, 56, still recovering from COVID-19 after a hospital stay is evicted from her home

A Memphis woman who is recovering from COVID-19  was evicted from her home last week over medical debt belonging to her mother-in-law. 

The entirety of Leslie Nelson’s life was stacked in haphazard piles on her front lawn on Thursday as she was being forcibly evicted from her Raleigh neighborhood home.  

Nelson still struggled to breathe, could barely rise to her feet and even suffered a seizure as her belongings were removed from the home she inherited several years ago from family. 

She said Memphis officers threatened to arrest her while she was being removed from her home. 

The 56-year-old COVID-19 survivor was one of several Tennessee residents who were left blindsided after the state’s moratorium on home evictions lifted in June.

Tennessee officials placed the moratorium earlier this year to help scores of Americans, many of who lost their jobs and resources, stay afloat during the pandemic.

But in August, as cases continue to rise across the country and an end for the pandemic is nowhere in sight, home evictions are the last thing residents needed. 

Nelson told The Commercial Appeal that she begged a probate attorney for a chance to settle the debt from her deceased mother-in-law’s medical bills, but to no avail. 

She said didn’t know about the medical debt prior to her mother-in-law’s passing. The house was left to her and a partner. 

Nelson said she had the documents to prove it, and tried to repay the medical debt that lingered with the home. 

A GoFundMe was created last week that has raised $12,500 of its $20,000 goal as of Sunday.

‘I offered to pay,’ Nelson told the publication. ‘But he didn’t even give me a warning. He just sent movers over here, and they showed up with police officers.’

Nelson said she first contracted COVID-19 on June 11 when she decided to visit a friend one day after spending much of the pandemic indoors.

A few days later, the friend called and she thought they suffered from heatstroke symptoms when they saw each other.  It wasn’t a heatstroke. It was COVID-19. 

Nelson’s health would deteriorate over the next three days and she felt sicker than she’s ever felt before.

‘I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand up, I was hallucinating at one point,’ said Nelson.

She called an ambulance to her home and spent several days at  Methodist North Hospital on oxygen.

Nelson was discharged a few weeks ago feeling like she was beginning to get better. But a process server showed up to her home and Nelson said she grew ill from the stress.

In fact, Nelson reportedly suffered from an epilepsy-induced seizure on Thursday morning amid the eviction rush, The Commercial Appeal reports.

That night, Nelson went to a local hospital with chest pains. 

Memphis police officers were at Nelson’s home to ensure the peace and the process server, who was there to oversee the eviction, left around 3pm. Movers were also at the scene.

Ten volunteers arrived to Nelson’s home to simultaneously help her move belongings out of the afternoon sun and to tend to her from a safe distance.

The volunteers descended onto Nelson’s home after she sent out a distress call on Facebook. 

In the video, she can be heard telling two officers that she ‘has COVID-19 and it’s hard to even think.’

The officers mention they thought she was ‘cleared’ of the virus, but she insists that health officials allegedly tried to hospitalize her three separate times. 

She claimed that the local health department says that city officials could not evict Nelson from her home because she was still ‘active.’

Nelson’s pleads were amplified by Hunter Demster, a community organizer and activist, who streamed her eviction on Facebook Live.    

‘A dozen people have showed up, dedicating their time, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way of COVID to do the right thing,’ Hunter told WREG.

At one point, the scene turned chaotic as a process server reportedly took an antique rifle from Nelson’s home and said he was taking it to his car.

Volunteers attempted to block the process server by standing in his way.

Nelson tried to get the antique rifle back herself, but the process server reportedly swung the rifle around in the presence of officers.

The process server later said he would return the rifle before he left. He reportedly claimed it was his right to temporarily hold onto the gun.

‘Just absurd behavior,’ activist Marissa Kizer told WREG.

Demster said that it was an ‘infuriating’ situation to see a woman whose dealt with COVID-19 be displaced.

‘Collecting debt from a deceased person is more important than putting an elderly woman who is recovering from COVID out on the streets, and that’s what they’re saying. That’s what they did!’ he said.

Nelson added that her situation is one that could happen to several Tennessee residents in the upcoming months.

‘This is going to happen again. And next time, I want to be the one that shows up to help,’ she said.

But for now, Nelson’s belongings were placed in small rented storage space that was donated.  

Tennessee has recorded 118,000 confirmed infections and 1,200 deaths.  

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