Families finding new homes
The exodus has begun from Summit Park Apartments.
Church groups, organizations that help immigrants, and others worked last week and were scheduled to continue on into the weekend helping families move to new homes after the 260-unit complex off Le Marie Court was shut down by city officials June 5.
Joyce Bourgault, chairwoman of the Northland Alliance, is also a member of Friends of Summit Park. The group of clergy members, social service agency representatives and people who work with immigrant refugee populations had been meeting to pressure city officials to improve what they said were deplorable living conditions in the apartment buildings, where many immigrant and refugee families found inexpensive accommodations.
On April 22, city prosecutors filed a complaint against the owners of the complex. In it, code enforcement personnel reported finding 63 violations since investigations began in September.
When the order to close the complex was issued early last month, Department of Building and Zoning Services Deputy Director Scott Messer told The Columbus Dispatch that not a single improvement project to address the code violations had been completed.
At the time city officials took action, Bourgault said she and others involved with the Summit Park Apartment residents, many of them Bhutanese refugees from Nepal, had a plan in place for helping them relocate.
City officials are providing $650 toward moving expenses and first month's rent, Bourgault said.
So far, she said last week, the relocations have gone relatively smoothly, although language barriers have created some difficulties.
"For some who have been here a long time, it's kind of disturbing, but they're glad once they've moved because they're moving into really much nicer conditions," she said.
In many cases, Bourgault added, apartment complexes in the general vicinity have been able to take several families who had wanted to remain together.
"There were clusters," she said. "They still have the transportation they shared among the families."
Some of the groups involved in helping families move have also raised money to buy things such as new bedding and new mattresses, so pests such as cockroaches and bedbugs don't make the move with the relocating families.
"We've been pretty organized in how we've helped them not transport the problem with bedbugs and cockroaches," Bourgault said. "The people have been very gracious. They're peace-loving, nice people.
"As we were moving people, others were coming out of their apartments asking how that was happening."
With the help of translators, these people, too, understand they have to leave and that assistance is available to do so, Bourgault said.