Volunteers at an after-school program who were abruptly evicted from a property in south Atlanta received word Monday that they are allowed to return, at least temporarily.
CBS'46's exclusive reporting of the eviction and an emergency injunction filed by Attorney, Simon Bloom, forced the Oxford Village apartments to let the program back into the space they were kicked out of. If the property manager still wants them out, the soonest they can ask them to leave is in 60 days.
The rest of the lawsuit is pending and the group is still seeking damages and penalties against the property's leadership, but for now, the after-school program is back open, and their computers were returned to them.
People who live in the Oxford Village neighborhood of Atlanta's Orchard Knob say, without an after-school program, children run the streets all afternoon and evening unsupervised.
"They tear up, they break windows, they play with the fire hydrant like you just saw," explained one neighbor.
For going on three years, The Jabez Project, an all-volunteer, non-profit group, has given free meals to any kid who walks in the door and provides them with a safe learning environment to hang out until their parents get home.
On Wednesday March 28, that all came to an abrupt end.
"They gave us a short window of time to have everything out, so we've just got everybody all hands on deck," said volunteer Jessica Madden.
After-school volunteers tell CBS46 they had a friend on the board of directors at the property where they stay. On Tuesday, the person who helped them get free space for the program was voted out of office.
By Wednesday, the locks on the non-profit's doors were already changed.
The sudden eviction looks very much like an act of political revenge with children caught in the middle.
To add insult to injury, someone with a key snuck into the building and took everything of value: electronics, computers, things the volunteers say belong only to The Jabez Project and its sponsor, ATL Moms Making a Difference.
"That's the most hurtful part because everything we do is for these kids," said Madden.
The volunteers called 911, but they say the officer told them nothing could be done until they came up with receipts or serial numbers for the stolen items.
They're working on finding those now.
Bloom was so moved by the group's story, he decided to take their case for free.
"They're entitled to sixty days notice. They cannot have the locks changed on them. They cannot have their property converted."
He says squatters who live in vacant buildings have more rights than this group was afforded.
"...and they thought they could get away with it, because they thought they would just bully some of these residents, who have done nothing except try to provide an after-school program for the children of Oxford Village, which is insane to me on a number of levels," lamented Bloom.
CBS46 went in search of Christopher Allen Arrington, the person who volunteers say is the president of the board and ultimate decision-maker at Oxford Village.
When we approached the office door, his staff locked it from the inside and called 911, asking for a police officer to escort us off property.
Needless to say, they wouldn't answer any of our questions.
We looked up Arrington's past and discovered he was arrested last year in Birmingham, Alabama, charged with disobeying police. He was then arrested a second time in January for failing to appear in court on that charge.
After Arrington was served with the lawsuit, the lawyer representing the apartment cooperative suddenly had something to say.
Attorney Jamie Lyons claims no one wants the volunteers to leave.
"The association is interested in continuing this program. It's good for the kids and the community. There's no doubt about that. They just want to make sure the proper liability insurance exists, the proper business licenses exist, and the proper documentation exists."
Lyons described what she believes is the reason for the misunderstanding between the apartment management and the volunteer group, but she wouldn't comment on the actual claims in the lawsuit- the ones that describe the apartment leadership trespassing, giving lack of notice for eviction, and theft.
Copyright 2018 Meredith Corporation (WGCL-TV) All rights reserved.