Image of a house with words from documents on top.
The Wheeler family had to leave their rental home after lead hazards that poisoned Sariyah Wheeler were not fixed. Despite help a Legal Aid attorney they ended up homeless. Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

I met La’Chreasha Wheeler for the first time in a conference room at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s downtown offices. She told me about her family’s ongoing legal battle with their landlord. Her youngest daughter, Sariyah, was lead poisoned in their rental home in Collinwood. A year had passed, and the landlord hadn’t cleaned up the hazards.

The Wheelers were forced out of their home and have been homeless – sleeping a few days in hotels, on couches and months at a time in Airbnbs – ever since.

I spent a few hours listening to their story. The family was exhausted and frustrated. In their year-long fight, the Wheelers have experienced so much turmoil. I was shocked to hear how little help the family has gotten from the government and other partners.

What I wanted to know was why. Why was it such a struggle for the Wheelers to find support? Their story is part of a series that examines lead safe laws Cleveland passed in 2019 to help prevent children like Sariyah from being poisoned by the toxin, which can damage a young brain.

The Wheelers’ story is just one example of how families can fall through the cracks of a city system that has not held landlords accountable. I also look at what the city and its partners have – and have not –  done to enforce the current laws and create a safety net for families that could be displaced.

I also examine the court system and how difficult it has been for the Wheelers to get their landlord to clean up the lead hazards in the rental house.

I found the family’s resilience powerful. I hope you can take some time to read their story.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please contact me at

Candice Wilder, Signal Cleveland Health Reporter

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