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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Conditions at northeast side apartment complex create health hazards, but residents struggle for relief

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Emauria Davis was in the middle of listing her complaints about the run-down apartment complex she lives in on an October afternoon when one of them came to life. A cockroach scurried up her leg.

“Oh my gosh, there was just a fucking roach on me!” she screamed. “Oh fuck no, I can’t do this. They crawl on you. That’s not even fucking cool.”

Davis lives at Village at the Mills Crossing on the east side of Indianapolis with her 3-year-old daughter after being houseless for a year.

The Marion County Public Health Department and Health and Hospital Corporation have visited Davis’ apartment six times in the last four months. Complaints range from mold to cockroaches to raw sewage leaking and her toilet flooding her apartment with about an inch of water. And she isn’t the only one.

The health department has 350 cases on file dating back to 2018, along with hundreds more before then for mold, pests, appliances that don’t work and other complaints and violations. The Recorder obtained cases from the health department through a public records request.

“It’s honestly heartbreaking,” Davis said, “because I feel like no one should have to live in these types of conditions.”

A spokesperson from The Community Builders, the owner of the property, said they are working on fulfilling backlogged maintenance requests and property managers have been instructed to address any specific unit concerns as quickly as possible.

“As a nonprofit organization with a mission to build and sustain strong communities where all people can thrive, we are committed to responsible ownership of The Villages at Mill Crossing. We have taken important steps to improve the experience of the families who call this community home and secure funding for needed building and apartment upgrades,” a spokesperson said in a statement to the Recorder. “In August 2022, we retained a new property management agent, with a focus on resident service and professional maintenance. We will remain committed to improvement during this transition and look forward to a sustainable future for the community.”

Davis said her apartment has flooded four times since she moved in in August and has had to deal with mold making her daughter sick. Water stains remain from a leak in the closet where the washer and dryer hookup are and along the wall in the living room where her daughter plays. Davis said she had to throw away most of their clothes because of the mold growing on them.

Her daughter, Lovelii, was sick and struggling to breathe for a few weeks. Davis said although a pediatrician could not definitively link her sudden onslaught of illness to the conditions in the apartment, the doctor said her symptoms were similar to those of toxic mold exposure.

No mail, unfulfilled maintenance requests
Mail doesn’t get delivered to the apartment complex either, residents said. They have to pick it up from the post office 1.5 miles away. For residents like Davis, with a 3-year-old to take care of and no car, they can’t make it to the post office often.

Residents also say their maintenance requests go unfulfilled, or they only receive temporary fixes. Resident Kenny Owens has since started writing letters and making comments on work orders to get them fulfilled. Owens said he put in maintenance requests for the roaches but eventually had to take care of it himself with foggers and roach powder.

Maya Williams, who lives across the hall from Davis, said she has been in and out of the hospital with toxic mold exposure symptoms, including trouble breathing and a rash. Pipes busted behind her toilet, pouring water all over her bathroom. It wasn’t fixed for weeks, she said, and snails and slugs began to make a home on her wet and moldy bathroom floor.

“When the maintenance man came to fix it, the drywall was so wet that it came down like paper,” Williams said.

‘I can’t afford to move’
Many residents at Village at the Mills Crossing aren’t in a financial position that allows them to move somewhere cleaner and safer.

The apartments, near the corner of East 38th Street and North Sherman Avenue, are in the Meadows Neighborhood, where in 2019 the unemployment rate was 15% and more than a third of people lived in poverty, according to The Polis Center at IUPUI.

Davis’ upstairs neighbor, Owens, is among those who would like to move but can’t. He lived in the same apartment as Davis before he said his doctor wrote a letter to the apartment complex forcing them to move him due to ongoing mold problems. Owens also deals with frequent wet carpet and pests in his new apartment.

“I’ve always been like that, but I can’t afford to move,” Owens said.

Contact staff writer Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or by email JaydenK@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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