Women on the street after eviction from church

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Two former squatters ejected from a local Christian church spent their first night homeless on the street, but said they felt relieved the year-and-a-half debacle was finally over.

“I feel like I have the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders right now,” said Mary M., who did not want her last name published. “This will work out. Good things will come out of this. We’ll be stronger in the end.”

The Queensboro Hill Community Church of Flushing bemoaned an act of kindness after spending $2,000 in legal fees and close to two years to try to evict Mary, her friend Judy B. and their dog after church leaders originally let the down-on-their-luck duo in, said Joe Illigasch, who has close ties with the church.

Illigasch, 70, said the house of worship realized five months into their stay that the non-rent paying tenants had no plans to leave. Church leaders hit the courts after being told they could not simply boot the ladies after having housed them for more than 30 days, he said.

The twosome had until August 3 to move out, according to an order by a Queens County Housing Court judge. But the church said the couple waited until Tuesday, August 7 — hours before a court marshal arrived on the church’s door steps — to finally leave.

“My feeling went from sympathy to hatred of their lies and deceit and what they were doing to these wonderful people of the church, financially and emotionally,” Illigasch said. “I thought I was going to be so happy when they left, that I’d go home and have a glass of wine, but I went home and felt so bad for them.”

Judy, 64, and Mary, 54, said they had no concrete plans Tuesday other than sleeping through the night on the church’s sidewalk, which they had permission to do. But their suitcases, they said, were starting to draw stares from nearby locals who stopped to ask if they are the “squatters of Queensboro Hill.”

“It’s to that point — they see our faces now and no one will mentor us around here,” Judy said through tears. “We’re not bad people.”

Church leaders — while finally being able to breathe after being consumed with the legal process — said they sympathized with the pair’s plight.

“No human being should have to live like that,” Illigasch said. “I knew they had nowhere to go. But they brought it upon themselves.”