Residents Get Lost in Gary Public Housing Receivership
By: Hilary Powell
October 6, 2014 — A bad back is no barrier to 56-year-old Cynthia Lynch of Gary, Ind. taking the stairs.
They are her only alternative to sharing one tiny elevator with more than 100 other residents.
“If you don’t want to wait you have to walk up the stairs or down the stairs and that’s not good in some people’s condition,” Lynch says. “I just had my back reconstructed and I can’t do all that walking.”
There’s a consensus in the Carolyn B. Mosby Senior Citizen Center at 650 Jackson Street in Gary: Every month, the residents can rely on unreliability.
“It’s easier to catch a bus in this city than catch an elevator because when you catch a bus, you do know exactly when what time that bus is due,” resident John Dicks says.
One of two elevators was broken for nearly a week. Lynch says it happens regularly.
“It’s beginning to be every month that this has been going on,” Lynch says. “It’s the elevators. And it’s unsafe for us, especially the one’s that’s in wheelchairs.”
Lynch is a resident at the Gary Housing Authority property. The GHA is currently under receivership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and C.Ray Baker and Associates after a history of shortcomings.
Normally, the process to file a public housing complaint is to go to the property manager on site, then raise it to the local executive director, then the executive board.
When we were unable to reach the building’s manager Patricia Brown this week, we tried to reach an official face-to-face several times in Gary and realized a chat about mobility was going to take place sitting down.
Residents say it is not very clear who to speak with when the local manager dodges their questions. They say, they don’t blame her, they blame the system.
“From my observation, the new management is spread out a little too far,” Dicks says. “I understand that, you know, she’s one person and she’s really stressed out.”
“I’ve spoken to people downtown, in the GHA building. I’ve spoken with HUD also, so, they know the problem,” tenant council president Boyd McIntyre says. “We don’t know if it’s a money issue. We do know the management is bad. We’ve been promised many things to be fixed. Nothing’s been fixed.”
“We have 8 floors and I had a hip replacement and due for another one. Not easy to do,” Dicks adds.
One concern from residents about having a small working elevator. How can emergency services reach a resident with a hospital gurney, Lynch wants to know? By appearances, medical first responders would have a difficult time fitting in the confined space. According to John Erickson of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, a 2008 code requiring the elevator to be at least 24 inches by 84 inches does not apply because the building was constructed prior to the law.
HUD officials confirm the problem elevator is working as of Wednesday, October 1st. HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Jerry Brown says providing technical assistance on the local level means personally taking calls.
“You can call me,” he says. “They can call me and we’ll get them an answer. An alarm went off and the fire department responded, turned off the elevator by mistake. The other car was working. The elevator servicemen then came out and turned the car back on. And that’s because the housing authority did not have the fire department key.”
Lynch says like the machine she uses to use to reach her fourth floor apartment, federal and local officials should make sure each party is working properly.
“I’m going to hear some feedback but I don’t care I can deal with it,” Lynch says. “They want the rent on time. Well we would like to have things that’s in working condition in the building.”