That’s what happened last week when Melissa Schlicht presented a piece she had been working on for some time. It was about a young mother and her autistic child and how they feared being kicked out of an apartment complex because of his autism.
Heck, before the story even got to press it was brewing controversy on the internet. We typically post stories to our website and Facebook as they are written. This one appeared a couple of days before the print version.
I immediately got a call from the apartment complex’s regional manager who was on vacation down South. She was not a happy camper, indicating vociferously, that we had gotten the story wrong and we should have talked to her, and neighbors in the apartment complex.
We argued back and forth, basically agreeing to disagree. Reporter Schlicht did talk to a slew of people including the mother, her mother, her aunt, a spokesperson for the apartment complex, a therapist who is at the home 20 hours a week, as well as several friends.
No one at the time had anything bad to say about the mother, or the situation she was in. Once the story was posted, however, all that changed. I’ve never seen so many negative comments about a story, or at least the subject of the story. Neighbors in the complex, relatives and friends began bashing the mother utilizing the comments section of our website.
In one aspect, the regional manager was right. We should have talked to the neighbors, because it was the neighbors’ complaints that precipitated the disciplinary action the apartment management had initiated.
The major complaint was that the mother was verbally abusive. It is her yelling and screaming profanities, the comments say, that has led to the violations she has received from apartment management, not the loud behavior of the three-year-old autistic child. In defense, the mother argues differently.
I have always said there is two sides to every story, and that certainly applies here. Can you really blame the apartment complex for threatening eviction when neighbors are complaining incessantly about problems in one apartment? Probably not.
Can you blame the mother for being upset and reaching out for help if she truly believes she may become homeless because her little 3-year-old is autistic? Certainly not.
So where does the story end? Her immediate family says the mother needs to grow up or face losing her children (she has two) to authorities. If what people say is true, the loud, abusive profanities do not belong in anyone’s vocabulary, let alone a single mother raising two children.
The apartment complex has offered to move the family to a first floor apartment in hopes that the ground level environment would work better for the autistic child. To me that’s a start to solving this problem. I am also told that her lease is up in June, and because of all the trouble the mother would like to move elsewhere.
To make ends meet and save money for that move, the mother is now working two jobs. So time alone will bring this current situation to conclusion. June is only a month and a half away and presuming her lease will not be renewed alternative housing has to be found, anyways.
I’m still flabbergasted that a story that was supposed to be “tearjerker” has ended up being so controversial. I guess you never know when you write for an audience, how that audience might react. As they say always expect the unexpected.