Man starting over in Newton following eviction, robbery

By Adam Strunk

Evicted from his Wichita apartment, Ray Bartlett said he had his life in a duffel bag.

Birth certificate, social security card, documents, clothes, wallet and anything he’d need that disappeared as well one night as he walked to a homeless shelter in Wichita.

“I passed someone on the sidewalk,” he said. “He punched me in the face, broke my glasses and left with everything.”

A bad situation turned worse.

All or nothing

Bartlett came from New Jersey to Wichita about five years ago after being priced out of housing. A high school friend had lived in Wichita for 25 years and convinced him to give the Sunflower State a try.

She relocated soon after, but he found an apartment complex on South Emporia in Wichita and lived there for four and a half years.

“The original landlord sold to a new landlord who was more of a businessman than a landlord,” Bartlett said.

He said he’d been making rent payments on a biweekly basis on the apartment – about $395 a month.

Soon after the pandemic eviction moratorium expired at the end of July, he was told he had $1,900 in late fees that he owed immediately. He said three other tenets he knew faced the same issue.

“I even offered to pay additional every month to pay that down but it was all or nothing,” he said. “He wanted it all right away.”

Unable to make the payment, Bartlett received an eviction notice and 30 days to get his possessions out and find a home for his two cats.

Overwhelming to lose it all

Bartlett got his cats homed with a friend. He cleaned his apartment. His deposit went toward paying his late fees. He lived on a friend’s couch for a while. He said he left because he said he felt like he was imposing. He called and stayed at the HumanKind Ministries in Wichita for a few days. He then had his items stolen on the street.

“When it happened I didn’t even think,” he said. “I didn’t know where to begin,” he said. “It’s overwhelming to lose it all in one shot. I just got my certificate mailed out. It was every lease, every single piece of paper.”

No papers or identification makes it hard to apply for work. No wallet makes it hard to pay for anything. No phone makes it hard to contact anybody.

Bartlett said he eventually got in touch with an acquaintance from Breakthrough Episcopal Social Services, who found him a spot at the New Hope Shelter in Newton and drove him up here.

“It was a God-send,” he said.

Feels like home

Bartlett has been living at the New Hope Shelter for about a month now. He’s been putting his chef skills to use cooking.

A donation of eggs a few days prior meant making lots of egg salad Sunday night, and bacon and eggs on Monday morning for instance.

He said with help from director Brian Bisbee and the shelter he’s now got a cell phone and is undertaking the drawn-out process of getting copies of documents, such as a social security card and birth certificate. He’s been doing some part-time work painting a house.

The Newton Lions Club had him with a new set of glasses within a week.

He said he’s planning on looking for food-related work in the area once he gets his documents in order and hopes to get into housing soon – in Newton.

“I want to stay here,” he said. “It reminds me of the small town I grew up in in New Jersey,” he said of Newton. “It’s peaceful and everyone I met here is absolutely wonderful polite. It feels like home.”

Editor’s note: Bartlett said he did manage to get the landlord to waive the remaining late fees once he was evicted. He asked the article not to list the complex as he’s still in communication with ownership about the process. We did look into the complex and the information Bartlett provided about rent prices, as well as the ownership change, did check out.

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