DURHAM — Facing eviction Wednesday, eight Lincoln Apartments residents and several supporters took their case to City Hall Monday.
After meeting with Assistant City Manager Keith Chadwell, organizer Senbolo Dieminah said there had been some positive results.
“It’s a small step forward that he is listening to information from the tenants themselves,” Dieminah said. “He also agreed to sit down with tenant leadership and bring together other city departments, other county departments and try to talk about solutions.”
Lincoln Apartments is a 150-unit complex for low-income tenants near N.C. Central University, owned by the nonprofit Lincoln Hospital Foundation. On Sept. 28, the apartments’ management company distributed notices that the complex would “cease operations” and all residents would have to vacate as of Oct. 31.
Tenants and supporters, who include City Councilman Steve Schewel, have said that was too little time for residents to find new homes. City, county and nonprofit agencies have tried to assist tenants, but, according to those at City Hall, at least 57 families, consisting of 152 individuals, will have nowhere to go Wednesday.
“Is the Lincoln Foundation heartless?” said Jacqueline Anderson, who has lived there for four years.
The foundation claimed that, due to “unfavorable financial conditions ... continued operations are no longer possible.” The foundation’s 2010 federal tax return showed expenses exceeding assets by $184,277 and $129,149 in bad debts.
The complex’s only income is the rent tenants pay, according to Howard Williams, president of the apartments’ management firm, Southern Real Estate of Durham; and the foundation’s board members have said few renters have actually been paying their rent.
“We are people who pay our bills,” said resident Darrielle Poole.
She said the residents who went to City Hall Monday want the city and county to “help us empower ourselves.”
The group gathered outside the Durham County Social Services office on Main Street, then marched four blocks to City Hall to voice their complaints.
Their plan had been to march on to the Durham Housing Authority office, but instead remained outside the City Manager’s office while Dieminah, Anderson and Poole met with Chadwell.
“It was a very reasoned and conversational meeting,” Chadwell said afterward. “It added some perspective.”
Chadwell said “there is clearly a gap” between the residents’ and the management’s views of the situation that must be resolved.
But, he said, “I don’t know that there’s a Hail Mary in our playbook on this.”
Durham County Social Services has been able to offer some Lincoln tenants cash for deposits or first-month’s rent on new housing, but tenants say new housing they can afford is hard to find. Schewel, who has made himself the City Council’s de facto liaison with Lincoln tenants, said many of those facing eviction are working poor who earn less than $10 an hour, and many others elderly and/or disabled.