Homeless mom fights court to regain custody of disabled daughter (TN)

Lisa Arnold is 20 years old and has Down syndrome and the mental capacity of a 3-year-old.

She’s also homeless.

Before a Davidson County judge ordered her to have only supervised visits with her mother, Lisa peddled The Contributor newspaper with her mother at the intersection of Old Hickory Boulevard and Franklin Road in Brentwood.

Together, they were one of the top sellers of the newspaper sold by the homeless.

But in January, a group including a disability advocate, a singer-songwriter and a former police officer brought concerns of Lisa’s health and safety under her mother’s care to Probate Judge Randy Kennedy. He ordered a local lawyer to serve as her court-appointed guardian to represent her interests in the courtroom. He granted temporary conservatorship over Lisa to Belinda Mitchell, a caseworker with The Arc of Davidson County, a nonprofit that helps the disabled.

Lisa now lives in a group home for disabled women and attends Harris-Hillman Special Education School.

A hearing to determine whether Lisa should remain in the court’s care or return to her mother will be held June 8.

Lisa’s mother, Renee Arnold, is fighting the conservatorship. Repeated attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful. Her former lawyer, Philip Irwin, declined to comment. The court file was sealed by the judge last week because of its sensitive nature, a court clerk said.

Another group, which includes some members of Brentwood Hills Church of Christ and homeless advocate Jeannie Alexander, has rallied to support Renee Arnold, saying others are trying to unnecessarily separate mother and daughter.

“What if Renee has genuinely chosen the lifestyle of moving from friend’s house to friend’s house and motel to motel, as the way she prefers for her and Lisa to live,” Alexander writes in a recent commentary in The Contributor. “Does such a choice necessarily make her unfit or crazy? …

“I have never doubted that Renee loves Lisa, and despite the long hours of vending, I have never doubted that Renee and Lisa are better off with the income that selling The Contributor provides.”


Homeless mom fights court to regain custody of disabled daughter
Disabled daughter’s care raises concerns; others defend woman
Erin Quinn
May 1, 2011
The Tennessean

Additional coverage:

Battle Continues for Right to Care for Lisa Arnold
Sky Arnold
April 20, 2011
WZTV Fox 17

Venders of the homeless newspaper The Contributor are on street corners all across Nashville but something seemed to stand out about the woman who’s usually on Franklin Road in Brentwood.

That woman is usually seen selling those papers with her daughter who suffers from Downs Syndrome.

“It moved me made me think of God.  “It made me think of Jesus Christ, a sense of sacrifice and vulnerability,” said Woodrow Lucas.

Last Year Lucas says he met the woman who goes by the name Renaa and Renata Arnold along with her daughter Lisa last year.  He says he invited them to live with him for several weeks.

“Yes their circumstances were hard but I saw Renaa’s conviction was always to protect and serve her daughter,” said Lucas.

It’s why he strongly disagrees with what’s happened to Arnold.

In January, a concerned group lead by Belinda Mitchell went to court to take Lisa Arnold away from her mother.

Jad Duncan is representing them.

“She’s safe in a house getting 3 meals a day. She’s off the streets,” said Duncan.

Among the allegations against Renata Arnold, using her daughter to get donations, encouraging her to kiss men and panhandling with her in cold temperatures.

“This is not something that was just a fly by night decision in which one particular individual decided they were gonna up and remove a child from her home.  There’s lots of circumstances that occurred prior to this,” said Duncan.

Duncan says the group wants to return Lisa to her mother but only if her living situation improves.

He believes that’s happening and it may be one reason why Judge Randy Kennedy granted Arnold more visitation rights Wednesday.

The fact that she even has to fight for those rights is something Lucas says is wrong.

“I believe that Renaa is a victim in this situation,” said Lucas.

The final decision of who get’s authority over Lisa Arnold will likely come here at a hearing June 8th.