ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis County judge on Tuesday ruled against an apartment landlord who sued a woman and her nonprofit after the woman circulated flyers on rental assistance to tenants of the apartments.
Associate Circuit Judge Virginia Lay ruled that the accusations against Shana Poole-Jones, 43, were unfounded, and she ordered the apartment complex to pay Poole-Jones’ court fees.
Norwood 2020, which owns Norwood-Redfield Apartment Complex in Norwood Court, sued Poole-Jones and her nonprofit Keep Pushing Inc. in May.
The company accused Jones, of Maplewood, of trespassing, invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy, inflicting emotional distress, interference with a contract, violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, and negligent misrepresentation.
The judge wrote in her order that, “Merely handing out two flyers informing tenants of the existence of a governmental program, which provides rental assistance beneficial to Plaintiff, cannot constitute harm to Plaintiff.”
Poole-Jones garnered national media attention last year for turning her yard into a food giveaway location after losing several family members to COVID-19. She said Tuesday that she was relieved after the judge’s ruling.
”(The lawsuit) kind of had me second-guessing, ‘Did I make the right choice? Did I do the right thing?’ Because as community leaders we want to help people. We want to see people not struggle, be happy, know that it is a village behind them,” Poole-Jones said. “I’m relieved I can breathe. There’s something in black and white that says I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Poole-Jones passed out flyers in April after she was asked by Yusef Scroggins, county director of family and community services and co-chairman of the regional commission on homelessness, to help identify those at the highest risk of eviction and inform them that millions of dollars are still available in rental assistance.
She knocked on doors of addresses Scroggins said had pending eviction cases, and she handed out flyers with phone numbers and emails to agencies that could help. Poole-Jones’ nonprofit, founded in 2019, connects homeless people with resources.
Attorneys for the nonprofit and Poole-Jones previously called the suit “egregious” but were not immediately available for comment Tuesday. The apartment complex’s attorney, Randall Reinker, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Though she temporarily shut down her food giveaway operation after being served with the lawsuit, Poole-Jones said she has since resumed and served 385 people in need.
“I feel good now. I’m ready. Give me flyers,” said Poole-Jones. “June 30 (the expiration date for the county’s eviction moratorium) will be here soon. A lot of people will need help, will need assistance. I want to be out there.”
Shana Poole-Jones, known for her grab-n-go table in Maplewood, is fighting lawsuit.