South Bend tenants refuse to speak about residential problems in fear of eviction

NOW: South Bend tenants refuse to speak about residential problems in fear of eviction

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Tenants with the South Bend Housing Authority (SBHA) started calling ABC57 Thursday evening, complaining of another water shut-off at 501 Alonso Watson Dr. But many refused to go on the record with their complaints, fearing retaliation from the housing authority.

One tenant, 83-year-old George Coley, has lived at 501 Alonso Watson Dr. since 1996. He said SBHA is now trying to evict him, and found the letter breaking the news.

“Dear Mr. Coley, based on a review of your public housing file, the housing authority of south bend has chosen not to renew your lease for the upcoming year,” Coley said.

He said he believes it is retaliation for speaking out about maintenance issues, where he said much of the time, not a lot is done. He complained about a lack of hot water, cockroaches, pests, rats, and other various problems.

The Executive Director of SBHA, Catherine Lamberg, said it has been hard undoing the damage from past administrations, since taking over the job a year and a half ago.

“Prior administrations did not manage or maintain the developments very well,” she said. “This current administration, we are managing our properties, the requirements of our tenants are to comply with their lease, and what we found is, old habits die hard.”

Lamberg said tenants were notified Thursday evening of a pipe break, causing the water shut-off. They were offered bottled water while they waited 24 hours for the issue to be resolved.

Some tenants agree that conditions have improved under the new administration.

“Better since the new administration came in. But in the past, I’ve had some real issues. And some of what you’re seeing now is legacy,” said William Rose, another tenant at 501 Alonso Watson Dr.

But to Coley, nothing has changed.

“I personally have experienced punitive measures as a result of complaining to the authorities or whomever,” Coley said.

Lamberg, on the other hand, denies any kind of punishment for residents who speak out with complaints.

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