AHA Moves Voucher-holder Family into Unsafe Apartment

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(APN) ATLANTA — A disabled voucher-holder, Tamika “Cookie” Brewer tells Atlanta Progressive News she now fears for her safety while living in a two-bedroom apartment in southwest Atlanta paid for with Section 8 voucher money.

“I’ve only been here a month, and it’s been hell the whole time I’ve been here,” Brewer said.

As reported in Atlanta Progressive News previously, Ms. Brewer moved into the Brentwood Meadows apartment after the bank foreclosed on her previous home due to no fault of her own.

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Photograph by Jonathan Springston

Brewer lost her three-bedroom house on Santa Barbara Drive last month, after the landlord failed to make mortgage payments, even though Brewer was paying her rent on time and AHA was subsidizing her rent with voucher payments.

Initially unassisted by AHA with responding to the mortgage fraud eviction situation–and faced with the possibility of going homeless–Brewer hastily moved to her current apartment, after a friend referred her a nearby location.

AHA approved the Brentwood Meadows apartment for voucher assistance after conducting an inspection, and hired a moving company to move Brewer’s family and their belongings, after a series of articles in Atlanta Progressive News exposed the situation.

But Brewer does not feel safe, has trouble sleeping at night, and copes with declining health.

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Photograph by Jonathan Springston

“I felt funny when I first got here,” Brewer said. “This is not the place I wanted.”

Now, Brewer may be stuck in the apartment for a year, according to a letter sent from Atlanta Housing Authority, unsigned by any individual, on September 25, 2007, obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

“A Housing Choice program move voucher was issued to you on July 25, 2007. This voucher expired on September 23, 2007. A Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) for an eligible unit was not received by the expiration date of the voucher. You will be unable to move at this time and you will not be issued a voucher to move again until the anniversary date of you [sic] lease,” the letter states.

The letter does not make sense to Brewer because AHA did approve that she move into the Brentwood Meadows apartment.

The letter would suggest tenants have only a 60 day period in which to find an apartment after being issued a voucher.

The situation in general also raises the question of what quality of residences, and neighborhoods, public housing families will be able to receive on the voucher program, especially if AHA succeeds in demolishing all Atlanta public housing and sending 5,500 families out into an already inadequate affordable housing market.

APN visited Brewer at Brentwood Meadows Thursday of last week. The complex appears to be well-landscaped and sanitary. The utilities function properly and the apartment is carpeted.

However, as APN has documented with photographs, many of the units were boarded up and appeared to be unoccupied, including the windows in Brewer’s building There did also appear to be an element of trouble lurking around the complex.

Brewer has seen people carrying guns in broad daylight and often hears gunshots at night, and strangers often confront her asking if she wants to buy drugs, she said.

Conditions are worse on the weekends when strangers congregate in the parking lot outside her door, she said. She added that she has seen a couple having sex in public and mailboxes tampered with and broken into.

“The police lock folks up, but it seems the same people are out a few hours later,” Brewer said.

APN saw a sign that said there is video surveillance but Brewer said she does not believe that and that no one in the leasing office seems to care about the crime.

Brewer has a 17-year-old daughter who is in school and refuses to live with her mother because she does not feel safe. She is currently staying with a friend.

“She [my daughter] doesn’t believe Section 8 stuck me out here with this,” Brewer said. “She’s afraid she might get in fights with other girls here.”

It is hard for Brewer to understand how the Atlanta Housing Authority would have no problem letting her live in her current apartment under such dangerous circumstances.

She wanted to move into an apartment at Brentwood Village down the street but was told that location did not pass inspection. She has since looked at seven or eight houses but was told none of them passed inspection.

“Everything I find they send an inspector out and find something wrong with it,” Brewer said. “I thought I could move October 1, but the inspector said something’s wrong with the property that I was looking at.”

Brewer said it is difficult finding a house that she could afford with a two-bedroom voucher, which is valued at $839. She said most of the houses are going to cost at least $1000.

“I’d rather be in a house,” she said. “But if I can’t be in a house, then I’d rather be in an apartment with better conditions.”

Because Brewer is disabled and has no transportation of her own, she finds it difficult to meet with landlords and inspectors to tour other properties.

“I had a landlord call me today about looking at a house but I said I’ll see what I can do,” she told APN. “[Housing] said they can’t take me today. If Housing could just take me around and look at properties I found.”

Brewer said the AHA offered her a hotel room to stay at while they assist other families who fell victim to foreclosure, but Brewer does not want to stay in the hotel which she also believes is in bad conditions.

Brewer no longer lives close to her doctors, who have told her that her heart condition is getting worse because of the stress of her living situation.

Brewer’s house not only kept her close to her doctors and other amenities but also gave her a support structure of friendly neighbors who she could count on and a safe place to stay. But now all that is gone.

“I don’t know the community or the surroundings,” she said. “This is a totally, completely different area and I’m real fearful for my safety.”

“I just want them to move me to a decent apartment outside this one and I’d be happy,” she said.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is the Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndicaton policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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