Housing Authority Evictee Gets Sick from Moldy Apartment (UPDATE 1)
This article contains additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale, News Editor
UPDATE: The morning after this article ran, AHA granted Hannor an additional two-week stay in her hotel. Hannor also said all the other tenants were moved out of the apartments and into a hotel.
(APN) ATLANTA — Patrisha Hannor, 33, a former Atlanta public housing resident, said she has become sick due to her apartment, which she found under Atlanta Housing Authority’s voucher program, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
“My skin broke out. I have bad headaches. My nose has been bleeding. My stomach aches. I stay sick, like, um, vomiting,” Hannor said.
Hannor at one point asked APN to keep her identity private because she fears AHA will take her voucher away in retribution for going public. However, she changed her mind after learning she would receive pro bono legal assistance from Lindsay Jones, an attorney who is also representing public housing leaders such as Diane Wright, Shirley Hightower, and others.
Hannor’s current apartment is paid for with the help of an AHA “Housing Choice Voucher,” and is plagued by mold, mildew, a collapsed ceiling, and even mushrooms, she said.
APN developed film provided by Hannor to obtain photographs showing the mold, mildew, and collapsed ceiling. The mushrooms were in some of the photos, but were too blurry to publish online, though.
She is currently staying in a hotel in Downtown Atlanta but AHA has refused to pay for it past this Friday, even though she says she has had a very hard time finding safe, sanitary, affordable housing in Atlanta.
As previously reported by APN, there is no evidence that there is sufficient available voucher leasing opportunities in Atlanta. Evidence suggests that, to the contrary, there are insufficient units, APN has exclusively reported. This is in part because landlords do not have to accept vouchers.
Moreover, Georgia State University research and testimony by an AHA whisteblower suggests that the majority of households evicted by AHA in the course of demolishing public housing have ended up in high poverty neighborhoods, particularly in Southeast Atlanta.
Furthermore, with the existing shortage of affordable housing in Atlanta, exacerbated by public housing demolitions and by middle-class suburbanites moving back into the City, the current set of families facing eviction from five communities will face the same predicament as Hannor.
Hannor told APN that AHA would not at first approve the apartment, but they later approved it.
“I don’t understand Section 8,” Hannor told APN. “I thought it was to better yourself.
A near lifetime resident of Jonesboro South, which AHA cleared out last year for demolition, Hannor said she was happy to leave public housing in January 2008 in order to start what she thought would be a better life for her two sons, nine and three.
But mold and mildew plagued Hannor’s new three-room apartment at the Chastain Woods Apartments in southwest Atlanta from the beginning, not an ideal situation for someone who along with her two sons already suffers from asthma and bronchitis.
Despite receiving assurances from AHA her new place had passed inspection, Hannor said sanitary conditions were an issue from the first day.
“[Mold and mildew was] there when I first moved in,” Hannor said. “I saw the mildew water in the dishwasher and the refrigerator wasn’t working.”
As time passed, Hannor said problems only became worse and no one wanted to help.
“We never had any manager in the office,” she said. “The office was always closed. There was no maintenance coming around. The only time they fix [anything] is when they know Section 8 inspectors are coming out.”
When maintenance happened to show up, Hannor said repairs were half-hearted attempts that really did not serve as solutions.
Other problems persisted as well, such as the lack of neighbors and a proper play area for her children. Hannor said someone even broke into her apartment.
“It takes the police two or three hours to get there if you call,” Hannor said. “Someone broke into my apartment and I called them and they still didn’t even check. They just left. That ain’t right.”
Hannor said she has made repeated calls and continues to make calls to AHA about her apartment’s unsanitary conditions but she told APN no one wants to take responsibility for the problems.
Over the last several months, conditions became so bad the ceiling in the bathroom collapsed into the bathtub. “I had mushrooms growing in the cabinet, kitchen, in the bathroom,” Hannor said. “Every time something happened, I took a picture and wrote it down.”
Hannor sent her sons to live with their grandmother in Henry County near the end of June 2008 to preserve their health.
Conditions became so bad AHA eventually agreed to place Hannor in a hotel in mid July while she searches for a new place.
She told APN she has been searching diligently for a new place for weeks while staying at three different hotels, one of which was so dangerous she could only stay one night.
“I’ve been looking for somewhere to move to,” she said. “It’s hard because I’ve been on the bus I need somewhere near buses, schools, and stores.” Such a unit has been hard to find, she says.
Several other obstacles are standing in Hannor’s way. Hannor’s voucher limits her search to the city of Atlanta. She has requested to “port” the voucher in order to extend the search area but has been denied that opportunity. AHA has said publicly residents could port their vouchers, so it is unclear why Hannor believes she cannot do so.
In other cases, landlords are unwilling to waive the application fees or the rent is so high Hannor is unsure she can afford it, even with voucher assistance.
AHA had promised HUD in its relocation plans, which were included in the demolition applications, that they would pay for up to three application fees for displaced residents. APN had asked AHA what would happen after the third rental application but AHA never replied.
Now, according to Hannor, AHA never paid for a single application fee.
“When I say there is nothing nice in Atlanta, there is nothing nice in Atlanta,” she said. “I was trying to find a new place or a house but [AHA] started talking about water bills there’s a lot of stuff you got to worry about.”
“It’s really depressing,” she added. “I’ve been calling every place I can think of.”
Hannor also said her voucher does not come with a dollar amount on it.
“They won’t tell me how much it is, they just said find a two-bedroom,” Hannor said.
Now, AHA previously submitted to HUD a chart containing different voucher amounts based on household size and neighborhood, so it is unclear why they have not provided that chart to displaced residents so they can make informed choices and not waste their time applying at apartments their voucher won’t cover.
Meanwhile, conditions at her current apartment grow worse each day.
“[Mold’s] in the walls,” she said. “It has started eating up the wood. It’s still wet and it stinks. It’s just bad, really bad. I ended up throwing stuff away [and] I don’t have the money to replace it.”
Hannor says there are about ten other AHA-assisted families still at the Chastain Woods Apartments and that the building is going into foreclosure. In 2007, AHA told APN that over 200 voucher recipients were affected by foreclosures on their properties; the number is likely greater by now.
She said all of them will be forced to move because of the pending foreclosure and are having problems finding new apartments that will accept their vouchers.
In addition to losing property, Hannor also has a bacterial infection as a result of such conditions. She is currently exploring legal options with Mr. Jones regarding this matter, particularly regarding AHA’s refusal to pay for her hotel stay until she finds an apartment.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. If Hannor is unable to find a new place, she may have no choice but to take her children back into squalid conditions. AHA is paying for her current hotel room downtown but only until August 08, 2008, this Friday.
Hannor said her AHA contacts were Angela Bullett and Lisa Friedman [phonetic spellings]. “I tell ’em every day that I’m having trouble and not finding anything.” Still, she says her deadline is looming in less than 48 hours.
Hannor’s oldest son is scheduled to start school August 11, 2008, and Hannor said she does not want to keep him out. And for Hannor, it’s all about protecting her children.
“I just wanted something nice for my children,” Hannor said. “It’s not about me I want something nice for them.”
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Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, may be reached at email@example.com
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