Chicago woman starts eviction process against stranger who moved into vacant home, refuses to leave

'I'm not going to stop until she's out. It's just not right,' said homeowner Danielle Cruz.

Samantha Chatman Image
Saturday, September 10, 2022
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What is a squatter? A South Side, Chicago homeowner started the Illinois eviction process against a stranger living in her vacant Chatham home.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago homeowner who said a stranger moved into her property and won't leave is taking the woman to court.

Danielle Cruz said the stranger has been living in her vacant home rent-free for five months. Police told her their hands were tied, so she started the eviction process.

According to the eviction court document, the woman living inside the Chatham home is Trineka Stevenson. The homeowner said she thought Stevenson would eventually do the right thing and leave on her own, but that didn't happen

"The fact that she gets to live there for free, that's the part that's infuriating," Cruz said.

Cruz contacted the ABC 7 I-Team when police told her they couldn't make the woman leave. Stevenson told the I-Team she's the victim of a scam. Stevenson said she met someone online, paid them $3,000 and signed a month-to-month lease to rent the home.

Because the woman inside has a lease, police said their hands are tied and referred Cruz to the eviction courts.

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Cruz said she believes the woman inside is a squatter. She said if the woman truly signed a month-to-month lease with someone, by now, it would be time to make additional payments. Cruz said she hasn't received a dime from the woman inside.

"A stranger shouldn't just be able to break into someone's home and then live there for free for months," Cruz explained.

ABC7 interviewed Stevenson a few years ago in an unrelated story about a grocery store grand opening. The complaint claimed that Stevenson "unlawfully withholds possession of the premises," that "no lease exists" between Cruz and Stevenson and that she has "taken over the property while it remained vacant."

Community activist Andrew Holmes said Stevenson told him that she was moving out a couple of months ago, but she's still there.

"To take someone's home? They worked all their life to get this home and now all of a sudden, you're controlling their home," said Holmes. "This family shouldn't have to go through this to prove anything."

When we last spoke with Stevenson, she told the I-Team that she isn't a bad person and wouldn't just break into someone's home. And while she does plan to move out eventually, she said she wasn't going to just "up and leave" and end up on the street. Since then, she hasn't returned ABC7's phone calls.

Cruz said no matter how long it takes, she's going to fight to get her home back.

"I'm not going to stop until she's out. It's just not right," Cruz said.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office told the I-Team that Stevenson has been served and the first court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22.