In Your Corner: Public Housing

By Ryan Elijah

April 22, 2011 Updated Apr 22, 2011 at 12:16 PM EDT

Last week we received a call from a woman we'll simply call "Kierra". She described her public housing unit that was infested with roaches and a fridge that didn't work. She said we were the last resort after countless calls to neighborhood code and the board of health.
Kierra also said her young daughter had a bug removed from inside her ear at the hospital.

"I would call CPS on myself, public housing has put me and my kids in harms way and they don't see it", said Kierra.

Kierra is 29 years old, has 5 kids and is pursing disability payments. Government programs pay her entire rent and several hundred dollars monthly in food stamps. Kierra lives at McCormick Place Apartments, 1 of 11 public housing complexes in Fort Wayne where the Fort Wayne Housing Authority is the landlord. Although we have no complaints on record about McCormick Place, we asked the Housing Authority to look into Kierra's complaints and they told a very different story.

"her demands were excessive, asking for a new appliance instead of one that worked and then $1000 worth of food, when we knew she didn't receive that much in food stamps. We had some concerns over her credibility", said Maynard Scales, Executive Director of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority.

They presented us with over 40 work orders placed by the tenant in nearly a year's time. They also told us they treat each building weekly for bugs. Along with the Housing Authority's 750 units, they are also indirectly involved with over 2700 families that receive "section 8 vouchers" that pay a portion of their rent at privately owned building. Several months ago, we highlighted one of those, Eden Green, in that story, the tenant was also complaining of bugs. HUD inspects the buildings annually, and while some section 8 have received low marks, Scales says the housing authority's properties average a score of 98 out of 100. He also says many don't realize they require a minimum rent of $50 and community service from the tenant.

Public housing agencies are receiving fewer federal dollars,despite long waiting lists. Scales often cautions families against a sense of entitlement about the services they receive.

"how much can you ask for when you don't live up to your part of the deal. I think we have a decent number of people that don't appreciate the services they've been given", said Scales.

Sadly, this week, our story has anything but a happy ending.
Kierra's history of alleged angry behavior and complaints led to a deeper investigation 3 weeks ago, Wednesday, she received an eviction notice for falling behind in her utilities and incurring court costs. Management will be forced to weigh the fate of 5 kids against a short tenant history that could be difficult to forget.

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