A new tub, an apology and a call for better housing authority maintenance

NOW: A new tub, an apology and a call for better housing authority maintenance

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tuesday, a contractor for the South Bend Housing Authority (HASB) installed a brand-new bathtub in Erica Williams’ Laurel Place apartment.  

ABC57 brought you the story of Williams Monday, who spent two years living with black mold in her bathtub.  

“I should never have fallen through the cracks for 2.5 years,” Williams said. “That’s just complete disregard and irresponsibility.”  

Calls from ABC57 news spurred immediate attention from HASB.  

“I feel so good right now,” Williams said. “I just can’t stop smiling inside, because I know I’m going to take a really, really hot bath tonight. And it’s due.”  

And our calls led to an apology from the housing authority.  

“I can’t explain how sorry we are for that,” said Deborah Mobley, Director of Public Housing for HASB. “We are addressing a lot of issues. I mean, tons of issues. So, you figure we got, over 400 some properties that we’re dealing with right now that we’re trying to bring up to make much more presentable.”  

Community advocates, like Rodney Gadson with the South Bend Tenant Association, say situations like Williams’ are far too common.  

“Decades of bad maintenance have been going on,” Gadson said. “Money hasn’t been allocated to the proper maintenance like it should’ve been.”  

The housing authority agrees, blaming the previous administration on lack of maintenance and the misappropriation of federal dollars.  

“We are a new administration coming in, there were things that should’ve been taken care of that weren’t taken care of,” Mobley said, “and so now, we need to take care of them to right the wrong.”  

“The mayor appoints the board of commissioners,” Gadson said. “So, the board of commissioners is supposed to look over fiduciaries, they also hire people like Dr. Lamberg to take care of the problem, but they should be overseeing what she’s doing. They didn’t do that in the past two administrations. The board didn’t do its job.”  

“Right now, we’re trying to hire more maintenance men, because we are short-staffed on the maintenance men, and we are pulling them thin trying to get all the work done,” Mobley said.  

While one family is breathing easier this week, the housing authority still has its work cut out for them.  

“Our tax dollars deserve better than this,” Gadson said. “You can’t be reactive to people’s problems. You have to be proactive. And if they were doing the job in the first place, and fixing it, instead of people like you and I drawing the light of attention to it, we wouldn’t have the problems here at the South Bend Housing Authority properties.”

Executive Director Catherine Lamberg said last year's capital needs assessment reached $75 million.  

But the good news is, Williams' complex, Laurel Place Apartments, is expected to get a full inspection at the beginning of May.  

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