We are on the verge of a potential housing crisis here in the city of Memphis.
For the past ten months the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center has been in communication and offering assistance to our members who are tenants of the Warren Apartments and Serenity Towers, both site based section-8 apartment complexes owned by Rev. Richard Hamlet of the Memphis based Global Ministries Foundation and subsidized by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
What we saw there in these complexes disturbed and appalled us as an entire community: bedbugs, sewage backup, faulty electrical work, widespread mold and even structural damage to floors and ceilings. Not only was this done with public funds and tax incentives but worse still, it was done under the guise of ministry and in the name of GOD.
The cries of the residents and our suspicions were vindicated two weeks ago when HUD officials notified Rev. Richard Hamlet that his nonprofit, Global Ministries Foundation, failed to correct violations “to the satisfaction of the Secretary within 60 days” for the Warren and Tulane apartment complexes, and that tenants will have to relocate. The letter from HUD also ended subsidies provided to the apartments.
MSPJC worked with brave tenants like Cynthia Crawford and Jessica Johnson Peterson and others in starting an organizing committee to form a tenant association for residents of the Warren Apartments. We provided assistance, support and aided in research to help them plan and implement their strategy. As there currently is no organization in Memphis that helps organize tenants into associations or engages in grassroots organizing around renters rights, brave folks like Jessica and Cynthia take great risk standing up for their rights and they need more support than is often available.
MSPJC is working to take this on as part of our mission and we will be reaching out to other tenants in other properties to work with them to have real and independent tenant associations to fight for their rights via our new RENTER’S RIGHTS PROJECT.
We are currently meeting with residents at Serenity Towers to do the same and aided them in their desire for full code inspections of that property, which were held last week. These issues at Warren, Tulane, Serenity Towers, Goodwill Villages, Peppertree, Bend Tree and many others are the results of decades of systemic neglect on the part of landlords and also the apparatus which is supposed to be providing proper oversight and vetting of these property owners and managers. It will take a comprehensive approach led by those most affected by the issue to enact real and lasting positive change. Later this year we are reorganizing internally in order to devote resources to assist residents and tenants in HUD subsidized housing that struggle and in the years to come comprehensively working with these new tenants associations to address renters rights for all in our community. Access to quality, affordable and accessible housing in Memphis is the largest unaddressed civil rights issue in Memphis, particularly with people with disabilities.
Continue Reading …