Residents with mental health issues being evicted from subsidized apartments

Residents with mental health issues being evicted from subsidized apartments
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 4:07 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A paperwork error on a federal grant application may cost some low income residents with mental health issues their homes. For the past 24 years, Hopewood Apartments have housed people in Wilmington who could not otherwise afford an apartment. Many of them were previously homeless.

The apartments are owned and managed by Wilmington Housing Finance and Development (WHFD). The non-profit used to be under the umbrella of the Wilmington Housing Authority, but is now an independent non-profit.

When applying for the federal grant WHFD uses to subsidize rent for their residents, they listed the wrong CEO of the Wilmington Housing Authority on the application, saying they were unaware Katrina Redmon had recently retired from the WHA. The mistake flagged their application, and ultimately cost WHFD the grant they’d been receiving for over two decades.

WHQR first began following the pending evictions at Hopewood Apartments, after hearing from concerned social workers that residents there may wind up homeless.

“All of these folks are chronically mentally ill, and formerly chronically homeless. So they’re very at risk, they’re often not able to work. And the circumstances have been very difficult for them, triggering a lot of their mental health symptoms,” WHQR Reporter Kelly Kenoyer said of the situation.

“I mean, I can’t sleep. I’ve been taking insomnia medicines,” Hopewood resident Tony Bellamy said of the stress the pending eviction has created for him. He and his neighbors got word earlier this summer they’d have to find a new place to live by Sept. 1, or start paying their rent in full.

“All these threatening letters that we’ve been getting, telling us that my rent is going from $225 to $850. And the beginning of this month [they] are now accepting no payments, not less than $850. I don’t even make that much money on my disability,” resident Tim Neal said of the financial crunch. He moved into Hopewood 12 years ago after living on the streets, and is now facing eviction.

Betty Bisbee, the executive director of Wilmington Housing Finance and Development, says this was not the outcome she wanted either.

“We’re very, very sorry about it. And yes, our feelings were hurt terribly. But there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said.

Another non-profit organization, Continuum of Care (COC), did get a federal grant that would keep these residents in their apartments, but only if the apartments’ current owners agreed to grant COC a master lease. Bisbee says she’s simply not willing to hand over the reins to their property, even if it means the existing residents will have to leave.

“We kept this place real happy, really for 24 years. We know how to manage our grant. We know how to manage the property. Why would we want anyone else to do it?” Bisbee said of their decision to turn down the master lease proposal.

Under the terms of the federal grant that Wilmington Housing Finance and Development got to build the apartments in the 90s, they must be used as low income housing. Bisbee said they will still keep the rent low, but cater to other residents who can pay $850/month for a one bedroom apartment, or $1,020/month for a two bedroom unit without a subsidy.

Bisbee said two existing residents have indicated they will pay more to stay. For the rest, the eviction process is underway.