Eureka lawsuit questions living situation, definition of ‘family’
By: Sarah Wilson
When Alicia Wrob’s friend Sheri Clark, who was getting separated from her husband, needed a place to stay, cohabiting seemed like a convenient alternative to living alone.
Wrob, who has two young daughters, had been divorced for a few years, and told Clark, “As long as I have a roof over my head, you have a place to stay.”
Wrob described her and Clark’s relationship “like sisters” and said their living situation is not about the money.
“Quite frankly, I can afford this on my own,” Wrob said. “It’s more of a security thing because I’m a single mom with two little kids and she’s a single mom. Somebody is almost always here, and that gives me comfort.
“I reached out to someone who needed something, but like they say, no good deed goes unpunished.”
Clark, who also has a daughter of her own, and Wrob moved last year into the Autumn Glen St. Louis Villas Community in Eureka, but when a neighbor got wind of their living situation, the neighbor notified the city of Eureka.
The argument is whether Wrob, whose name is on the lease, and Clark are violating an ordinance that prohibits two families from living under the same roof. Katherine Butler, Eureka’s city attorney, said they are.
“They’re saying we can’t be considered a family, but the kicker is, if we were a lesbian couple, we’d be fine,” Wrob said. “They wouldn’t touch us, but since we’re heterosexual, I guess that’s a problem.”
Wrob said she did not put Clark’s name on the lease because it was her own responsibility.
“The landlord seemed fine with it until the neighbor started complaining,” Wrob said.
Nicholas G. Higgins, the attorney for Wrob and Clark, said he believes his clients are correct in their position and that Eureka’s current ordinance allows them to reside as they are.
Higgins on Jan. 17 had the case dismissed before a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge was scheduled to hear arguments, which, according to Higgins, “made the hearing moot.”
“Now we’re just trying to see what Eureka is going to do next,” Wrob said.
Higgins said nothing currently is pending, but Butler said she would update the Board of Aldermen at its next meeting of the city’s plans to move forward with the case. The meeting took place on Feb. 5, which was after presstime.
“If something happens, we will react accordingly,” Higgins said. “We can always refile the temporary restraining order.”
Wrob said she offered to move out prior to the end of her lease, but her landlord said no. Wrob’s lease is up in July, and she said she would not be resigning.
“It would have been nice to continue on here and renew the lease,” Wrob said, “but with the neighbor being as ugly as she has been to us, we don’t want to live here.”
Wrob said if the issue does not resolve itself, her “hands are tied not to live in Eureka anymore either.
“Because I can’t have Sheri come with me, and that’s what I would like to do,” Wrob said. “It has cost me a lot of money, a lot of grief, a lot of sleepless nights—and really, truly for nothing.
“I don’t want to rock any boats. I really just want to calmly get my feet under me and figure out my next move.”