This Vietnam Veteran Paid His Past-Due Rent. He Still Faces Eviction From Ebenezer Baptist Church's Apartment.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) claims his church's building does not evict residents

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) / Getty Images
November 21, 2022

ATLANTA—A Vietnam veteran says he still faces eviction from the low-income apartment building owned by Sen. Raphael Warnock's (D., Ga.) church, even though he paid his past-due rent.

Columbia Residential, which manages Ebenezer Baptist Church’s low-income apartment building in Atlanta, served a dispossessory notice to Phillip White on Sept. 20 for $192 in unpaid rent. White, an African-American Marine veteran who served two combat tours in Vietnam, provided money order receipts to the Free Beacon on Thursday showing he made a $542 rent payment on Nov. 2. But Columbia Residential hasn’t filed a motion to dismiss its case, indicating it still intends to evict White.

It’s not clear why Columbia's dispossessory notice against White remains open following his Nov. 2 rent payment. Warnock said in October that no one had been evicted from his church’s property, a claim undermined by court records showing that authorities have carried out two court-ordered writs of possession against residents since the start of the pandemic.

White said he expects the building to resume evictions after Warnock is clear of his Dec. 6 runoff election against Republican Herschel Walker.

"He said there would be no evictions," White, 69, said. "He knew that was a lie. What he was really saying is there would be no evictions until after the election."

Warnock has repeatedly dodged questions about evictions from his church’s apartment building since the Free Beacon broke the story in October. On Thursday, Warnock refused to tell reporters if he thought the eviction notices were wrongly sent, or if he had even looked into the issue. Earlier, on Sunday, the Democrat railed against the "vicious and venomous" critics of his church, saying they "attack the church of Jesus Christ."

Ebenezer Baptist Church, which pays Warnock a $7,417 monthly housing allowance, owns 99 percent of the dilapidated Columbia Tower at MLK Village. The church tapped Columbia Residential, one of the nation’s leading eviction filers, to manage the property on its behalf.

Walker launched an attack ad on Friday accusing Warnock of preying on the poor while lavishing himself with lucrative benefits from his church. The Republican has also offered to pay the past-due rents of the more than a dozen residents of Columbia Tower who have faced eviction since the start of the pandemic. But White said Thursday he didn’t want the help.

"I help me. I got to tighten my belt and do the things I need to do," the veteran said. "If I do that, I'll feel good. I'll sleep better at night, sleep real good."

Warnock called his opponent’s offer to pay the back rents a cynical ploy to "exploit" the residents facing eviction from his church’s apartment building. He also accused Walker of sullying the name of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. for "short-term political gain."

Thursday was the second time White spoke with the Free Beacon. White, who doesn’t own a phone, told the Free Beacon in early October the building managers at Columbia Tower treat him "like a piece of shit."

The Free Beacon had unfettered access to Columbia Tower and spoke with residents inside the building when this reporter first visited the property in early October. On Thursday, however, a security guard who identified himself as Jones was on site to keep reporters out.

"They don’t want no media in the building," he said.