Charleston residents scared to speak up about 'unlivable' conditions in government housing


    Affordable housing maintenance concerns (WCIV)

    Rats, broken windows, and sewage leaks.

    Overall, slum-like conditions.

    Residents in a Charleston affordable housing complex downtown say they’ve lived like this for years.

    But now they’re demanding change, and explaining why they’ve stayed silent for so long.

    Over 1,400 families live in Charleston’s affordable housing units.

    Von Brown has lived in the same downtown Charleston neighborhood his whole life.

    He says living conditions in these affordable housing apartments have always been bad, but no one talks about it.

    “Oh yeah. You complain too much, you out," Brown says.

    He’s one of several residents who say they stay quiet out fear the City of Charleston Housing Authority will kick them out.

    But now, residents in the downtown Charleston neighborhood are speaking up.

    “I live in a clean unit, but we still see roaches coming out the wall," Naud Jarome says. "We feel they need to come and fix this stuff.”

    It all started in January with one resident – Rosalind Ward.

    She told ABC News 4 the housing authority ignored her maintenance requests to fix health and safety issues in her home.

    “I could get hurt or my grandkids could get hurt,” Ward says.

    The housing authority's President and CEO, Donald J. Cameron tells us Rosalind’s issues – including broken cabinets, rusty nails and a terrible kitchen smell - would be fixed within the week.

    She says that while some repairs have been made, the bigger issues remain unaddressed.

    “I come to find out there’s rat feces under there. There’s another rats' nest under there. I already had a rats' nest in June of last year. The kitchen stinks of feces. Now, there’s another rats' nest.”

    Cameron tells us workers never ignored Rosalind’s requests.

    He says they’ve resolved all the issues she’s reported.

    “The staff found no evidence of any rats or rat dropping or rat tracks," Cameron says about the new issues. "But they did stop up holes she was concerned about just to prevent that.”

    “There are problems that they’re ignoring," Ward explains. “Even though we’re on government assistance, I pay a portion of my rent. We don’t have to live like we’re in a slum because we’re on housing”

    She’s not the only one who says the housing authority doesn’t address maintenance requests.

    One block away, Vermell Myers is raising six sons.

    She says her family lives with broken windows, leaky pipes and rusty metal.

    Myers says nothing has changed, despite maintenance requests.

    “It makes me feel horrible. It makes you feel bad as a parent," she said. “It’s disgusting, but you can’t move, unless you get some kind of help to move.”

    Cameron says he’ll look into Vermell’s issues and that residents don’t need to be worried about retaliation for free speech.

    “Of course they shouldn’t be worried. That’s ridiculous," he said.

    Cameron says Rosalind’s been put on a list to move to a new apartment – but not because of her maintenance issues.

    He says she’s in a two-bedroom unit, and should be in a smaller unit because she lives by herself.

    The City of Charleston Housing Authority is an independent agency funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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