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South Bend Housing Authority tenants face backlash for speaking up about issues

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Residents living at the Rabbi Shulman Complex are saying they’ve been threatened or harassed since speaking with ABC57 about issues with South Bend Housing Authority.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg addressed the poor living conditions and poor treatment of those living in properties managed by the Housing Authority last week. In a letter to the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, he listed mistrust between residents and staff as part of the problem.

Problems with bed bugs, roaches, and residents of the Rabbi Shulman Complex not having access to their mailboxes for about a year were also acknowledged by the mayor. But residents say the biggest issue is housing staff intimidating people not to speak up about the conditions.

Gary May and Clifford Bailey both spoke with ABC57 last week and have since experienced backlash for doing so.

“Since the last time I talked to you guys I’ve been getting threats about things that I did in the past,” Bailey said. “You got the maintenance people walking around, talk crazy to you, talking about you gon get in trouble, you gon get put out and you know we need help here, we need help bad.”

They say maintenance requests for things like pest control, water, and heat sometimes go ignored or they have to wait long periods of time for issues to be addressed.

“If we complain about something too much to get done that’s neglected we’re being told leave, you don’t have to live here,” May said.

They are not the only ones in public housing experiencing problems with staff negligence. They say others are just too scared to speak up.

“Not just me, the elder people that stay in here that is not stepping up to speak for themselves to stop all these roaches and mice running around in this building,” Bailey said.  “I don’t think it’s right for us to continue to live like this.”

At the Rabbi Shulman complex, many residents are also frustrated with maintenance distributing their mail underneath their doors for about a year now.

“If I was to get a court date that was to be delivered by mail and I’m having problems with maintenance who disburse my mail to me,” May said. “They could just chuck it in the trash and next thing I know I got police coming in here to arrest me because I never even knew I had a court date because I can’t obtain my own mail myself with my own key.”

The office of the mayor issued this statement about the alleged harassment:

“The mayor feels strongly about rights and protections for Housing Authority residents. He has expressed his concerns about alleged retaliation to the board, and obtained written assurances from the executive director that harassment will not be tolerated. He will continue to monitor these concerns and knows that the board will take them seriously.”

Residents say they want change and they say no amount of intimidation will make them back down.

“We should not have to get the media and mayor involved into enforcing things that are grossly neglected to get done around here,” May said. “A lot of them don’t have much of an income and they don’t have another place to go to and stuff and they basically just bow down to the absurdity of what’s happening and reluctantly swallow, and it’s wrong , it has been wrong for quite some time and something’s gotta change.”

South Bend Housing Authority administration was reached out to to see how they are reacting to the situation but a response was not received.

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