MASS EVICTION IN SOUTH ST PETERSBURG-Andrew Stelzer05/03/06
More than 100 residents of an apartment complex in South St Petersburg were shocked Tuesday afternoon when they found out they were being evicted by the city with only a few hours notice. The evictions took place because of numerous fire code violations in the building, but the residents say that those problems along with dozens of others have been present for years, and the landlord hasnâ€™t fixed them and the city hasnâ€™t forced him too. Now many people have no place to go, and a hastily arranged press conference was held outside the apartments this morning, calling on the city and the buildings landlord to do right by the people.
ACT- Amanda Knight â€œThey should have let us know 2 weeks ago, the conditions are horrendousâ€¦
Amanda Knight and her roommate Amy Zeigler have lived in the Chinook apartments on the corner of 24th st. and 15th avenue south for the past 3 months.
ACT-knight â€œPeople need room, the shelters..they kicked us out on the last day without vouchers..the city or the landlord should have been arrested for robbery..â€?
This woman who didnâ€™t want to give her name, has lived in the Chinook apartments for 4 years, and was told by her friend around 12:30 yesterday afternoon about the eviction.
ACT â€œI thought they was playin and then I heard all the commotion..WHERE YOU GONNA GOâ€¦.I donâ€™t know..â€?
The buildings owner was warned by the fire department 2 weeks ago that he had 2 weeks to fix the problems, or that the building would be emptied. But the residents were never informed of the possibility of being evicted. Around noon on Tuesday, the residents of the Chinook apartments were given 5 hours notice that they had to leave. Omavi Bailey is with the international peoples democratic UHURU movement.
ACT-Bailey â€œWomen and children were not given time..this is part of the gentrification strategyâ€¦we witnessed this to build sweetbay, Tropicana dome..â€?
Julian Allen has lived in the Chinook apartments for the past 3 months. He paid his 600 dollars rent at the beginning of the month, as far as he knows that money is gone.
ACT-Allen â€œOne lady says the bathtub overflows, roaches, its dirty, its just bad
Several residents said they had never spoken to the buildings landlord--Scott Snow. Some people had seen him sitting in his car in the parking lot several times, including Tuesday morning before news of the eviction began to spread. The residents have been making complaints and repair requests through Sharon the buildings apartment manager.
ACT-Allen â€œThey got a drop box, but nothing gets done..â€™
Knight had her apartment inspected the first day she moved in..
ACT-knight â€œThey walked through, leaks..we got robbed after 2 weeks..THEY DID INVENTORY..they never fixed it..I got some of it fixed myselfâ€¦â€?
Rupert Langley moved in on February 17th, but because of the deplorable conditions, he moved out 5 days later and never spent the night. He then went to an attorney, who helped get him 200 dollars back out of the monthâ€™s rent he paid.
ACT-Langley â€œThe city should knock this down long timeâ€¦no gas stove, nothing to sleep on, I bring my stove no where to plug it in..â€?
Tuesday night, the residents were allowed to sleep on cots in a gymnasium opened up by the city.
ACT-Allen â€˜For stuff like this to happen, itâ€™s a crime..I blame it on the city, the city puts us in a gym, they donâ€™t even provide you with a cover..people had to provide food.â€?
ACT-knight â€œFor me its alright, but these people have kids toddlers, babies..â€?
Penny Hess, with the African peoples solidarity committee said the eviction is typical of the way African American residents in South St Petersburg have been ignored, while millions of dollars are poured into redevelopment efforts in downtown and what is now called midtown.
ACT-Penny Hess â€œCan you imagine this happening on the north sideâ€”never..the rent isnâ€™t cheap, its part of the war against the African communityâ€¦the landlord could not do it in the white communityâ€?
Bailey compared the displacement of people in St Pete, to that of other black people in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.
ACT-Bailey â€œThere is not rent control, people pay top dollar..
This morning, Pinellas County sent out a press release stating that they were providing the 40 displaced families with a voucher for 1 month of rental assistance, up to $600. Police were on scene, allowing residents of the apartments to come in and get their belongings. An officer told WMNF that he didnâ€™t know how long they would be allowed in and out, and he didnâ€™t know anything else. Yesterday, Knight and Zeigler paid $80 to put their stuff in storage for a month.
ACT â€œI paid $575, they took my check which was all the money we hadâ€¦we had no where to put our furniture or dog. We walked around all might insteadâ€¦15th, then made our way back here until 10 oâ€™clock in the morning..â€?
Messages left with Pinellas county officials were not returned by airtime.