Eugene Barnette, 61, in the lobby of the Penn Mathilda apartment complex, where he rents an apartment. Penn Mathilda is a Bloomfield complex with 39 units of affordable housing. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Gospel music rattles through Eugene Barnette’s apartment in Bloomfield. He has a shelf of CDs still bearing the price tags of $4 to $8 from secondhand stores. Shouts of thanks and praise echo through his residence overlooking Penn Avenue. The 61-year-old grandfather thinks he has a lot to be grateful for, even after a harrowing few years.

Barnette left his job at the Home Depot in East Liberty and went on disability assistance when he was diagnosed with cancer. He was already dealing with diabetes and depression. Rite Aid packages and paperwork from the Cancer Caring Center are strewn about his coffee table, next to a glass chessboard and religious books and pamphlets. A walking cane and cart for pushing around items sit by his door.

When he was diagnosed, Barnette was living in Penn Plaza, the East Liberty low-income apartment building whose owners evicted residents, after its affordability provisions expired, to demolish it and build something more profitable in an increasingly posh neighborhood. “I went on Craigslist and looked for anything in a 5-mile radius,” Barnette said. “Everything was unaffordable.”


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