Best Of 2020

Best Display of Resiliency in the Face of Displacement: Mary Frances Page

In 2019, 99-year-old Mary Frances Page received a notice that she would need to leave her apartment at 421 Wade Street in 70 days. The notice set her niece, Kim Dillard, her main caregiver, on a feverish scramble to find new housing affordable on Page’s fixed income. It also sparked an intense debate after it was revealed that FC Cincinnati purchased her building and another nearby for development around their coming $250-million soccer stadium. (FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding last year pledged the stadium wouldn’t result in displacement as the team made its pitch for building in the West End.) Eventually, with the help of the city, the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati and housing advocates, the team and residents including Page came to a confidential agreement. The upshot — Page and others had until January this year to move and received relocation assistance from the team. Dillard says it took every bit of that time and assistance to find a suitable place for her great aunt. There was the daunting search for an apartment that would accept her housing voucher and that was on the first floor without steps. There were paperwork struggles. And loud in the background, the political fight over the coming stadium’s impact on a historically African-American community that has long suffered from disinvestment and lack of economic opportunity. It’s clear that change has been hard for Page. The media attention, the back-and-forth over housing, the uncertainty — they all disturbed Page greatly, her niece says. But at the end of February this year, Page celebrated her 100th birthday in her new West End apartment. Although she’s mostly bedridden, she says she feels good. “I’m going to make it to 101,” she says. “Just hang on to the lord. He’ll work you on up there.”