'Incredibly dehumanizing': 700+ tenants call for investigation into Milwaukee Housing Authority, allege unacceptable living conditions

NOW: ’Incredibly dehumanizing’: 700+ tenants call for investigation into Milwaukee Housing Authority, allege unacceptable living conditions

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Bedbugs. Rats. Roaches. Lost rent payments. Abusive management.

Those were just a few of the many complaints heard Sunday afternoon, when more than 700 tenants banded together to call for an investigation and reform of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM).

“I’ve seen where we’ve had prostitutes running in and out of the building, we’ve had drug dealers that move in and out of the building," said Roye Logan, a tenant at Mitchell Court for nearly a decade. 

Logan was one of several who spoke up during the meeting, sharing complaints alleging unacceptable living conditions by the HACM. 

“We’re low income, we’re poor, or whatever you wanna call it, we’re elderly, we’re disabled, we still deserve fair housing," Logan told CBS 58's Ellie Nakamoto-White. 

The meeting was organized by local group Common Ground, "a non-partisan group of ordinary citizens of Southeast Wisconsin, dedicated to identifying problems facing our community and implementing creative solutions," according to their website.

The goal? To hold HACM and their executive director, Willie Hines Jr., accountable for the alleged conditions, after the group said they heard from more than 1,300 tenants living in dozens of their properties.

“No one can stand alone and fight a fight like this," said Brittany Walker, an associate organizer with Common Ground. “To know that you’re sitting next to someone who has the same issues and shares the same fight and drive for a change and systemic reform is even more powerful to me."

According to Common Ground, HACM, which was chartered by the city in 1944, is Milwaukee's second largest landlord. 

Their mission? 

"To foster strong, resilient and inclusive communities by providing a continuum of high-quality housing options that support self-sufficiency, good quality of life, and the opportunity to thrive," HACM's website said

But tenants said HACM has been failing that mission with requests for upkeep going unheard.

“I’ve registered my complaints with them and I’m always getting the same thing. We’ll look into it, or we can do what we can do," Logan said.

Megan Westra, a concerned citizen who came to the meeting, said she cried when she heard the allegations.

“I can’t imagine being in a place where you have these issues going on for like months if not years and nobody is responding to you," Westra said. "It’s incredibly dehumanizing and we shouldn’t be okay with that as citizens of this city."

Pastor Willie Davis with Invisible Reality Ministries added that there is strength in numbers.

“We are all standing together with our brothers and sisters, those who live in the HACM properties, so that we can move forward with justice," Davis said. 

Tenants were also joined by District 12 Alderman and Milwaukee Common Council President José Pérez, who pledged his support and help. 

For more information on the event from Common Ground, click here

Organizers said Hines Jr. was given a seven-week notice about the meeting, but ultimately, he declined to show.

A statement from HACM to CBS 58 reads:

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee’s (HACM) highest priority is to provide excellent service and quality affordable housing options to more than 10,000 households throughout Milwaukee. HACM takes residents’ concerns very seriously. We are aware of issues raised by residents, many of which have been resolved, and others that we have been actively working to address. When other matters are brought to our attention, we will address them as well. HACM’s mission has been to provide critical affordable housing to Milwaukeeans for nearly 80 years. Despite significant underfunding for affordable housing, we have continued to be resilient in advancing our mission and providing opportunities for our residents to thrive. We will continue to find solutions to ensure safe, healthy living environments for our residents. For more detailed information about HACM’s efforts, please visit hacm.org/media.

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