BUGS, FRUSTRATION RUN RAMPANT AT COMPLEX

Concerns remain despite residents’ pleas for change

8/3/2013
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA AND SAM GANS
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Carlee Carter sweeps the floor to rid it of bugs that infest her home at the Greenbelt Place apartment complex along Cherry Street. Her children, from left, Adron, 3, Shydoria, 7, and Joseph, 8, all sleep in that room to avoid roaches that scurry across the carpet in the upstairs bedrooms.
Carlee Carter sweeps the floor to rid it of bugs that infest her home at the Greenbelt Place apartment complex along Cherry Street. Her children, from left, Adron, 3, Shydoria, 7, and Joseph, 8, all sleep in that room to avoid roaches that scurry across the carpet in the upstairs bedrooms.

Renea Williams has lived at the Greenbelt Place apartment complex along Cherry Street just north of downtown for more than a decade. Like many there, Ms. Williams said she’s trying to leave.

The problems have mounted for years — bed bugs, cockroaches, violence, and lax security. For some, the shooting in May of two toddlers at the complex — a 1-year-old girl who was hit in the back by a bullet fragment and a 2-year-old whose left arm was grazed by a bullet — came as no surprise, Ms. Williams said.

Last year, residents at the apartment complex, who said living conditions are unsafe and unsanitary, took those concerns to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some residents complained that management demanded rent or deposits already paid; that there were missing fire extinguishers, and generally unresponsive management.

The complaints prompted Toledo Mayor Mike Bell to demand action at the 176-unit complex.

Mr. Bell sent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown a letter July 16 asking him to support Advocates for Basic Legal Equality’s request to terminate the housing assistance program subsidized by HUD at the complex.

“We have had enough complaints, and we should do something about it,” Mayor Bell said. “Everyone should have quality housing, and I would hope by sending a letter to Senator Brown that he has enough horsepower to get something done.”

Mayor Mike Bell has voiced frustration about the Greenbelt Place apartments and urged action by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Mayor Mike Bell has voiced frustration about the Greenbelt Place apartments and urged action by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The buildings are project-based Section 8 — housing that is owned by a private entity but subsidized by HUD for low-income tenants. Greenbelt’s owners receive up to $140,772 every month in payments from the federal government to provide housing for the low-income residents there.

The complex is owned by Hampstead Cherrywood Partners LP and is managed by California-based Intercoastal Financial.

Mr. Bell wants new Section 8 certificates issued to the Greenbelt residents who want to move.

Senator Brown said that he has contacted HUD about the complex. “The tenants of Greenbelt Place Apartments deserve a safe and clean home like everyone else,” he said.

A manager for the complex did not return telephone calls. Raymond C. Keyser, acting field office director of HUD’s Cleveland office, could not be reached for comment. A message on the phone system said the office was closed Friday because of sequestration.

Bob Cole, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, representing a number of tenants, said problems have worsened since residents met in October, 2012, with HUD officials.

“ABLE has been involved in helping folks at Greenbelt back to the late 1990s,” Mr. Cole said. “This comes up every 18 months to two years, and there have been a variety of attempts to try to address the terrible conditions that have existed at Greenbelt for a very long time.”

A main complaint for Ms. Williams, like many of the residents, is bugs. Carlee Carter, 33, has lived at the complex for three years. Roaches run rampant in the upstairs bathroom and bedrooms of her apartment, where she lives with seven children, ranging from 3 to 17 years old.

She said she has asked management unsuccessfully to replace a filthy carpet since she moved in and has been forced to throw out furniture overrun by bed bugs. She said one of her sons was once sent home from school because of impetigo caused by bed bugs.

“I’ve stopped inviting people over because they’ll be sitting on my furniture and they just jump up,” she said. “Because a lot of people — my family — they’re not used to [bugs] because they’ve never had them.”

Mailboxes at the Greenbelt Place are not usable. Residents have voiced complaints about lax security.
Mailboxes at the Greenbelt Place are not usable. Residents have voiced complaints about lax security.

Ms. Carter said she has been told by property manager it’s up to the residents to make many changes in their apartments, saying it’s the residents’ community, not management’s. She said some residents are afraid to speak up to management.

“Some of them just don’t want to speak out, because if they’re limited income or no income, [they think], ‘Where the hell am I going to go [after] talking to people and getting no results?’” she said.

Five-year Greenbelt resident Lateesha Thomas also complained about an overrun of critters. “The place is infested,” she said. “They need to tear it down and start from the ground up.”

A bigger problem for Ms. Thomas, 37, is the trouble caused by teenage members of the community on the property, forcing her to restrict her two daughters from playing outside.

“We need more security or something,” Ms. Thomas said. “We need more of that — cameras, so they can find out who really is out here causing all the problems. Because if the kids weren’t tearing up the property, it’d be a decent place to live.”

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.