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  1. #1
    Moderator Beezer's Avatar
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    Apr 2016

    ‘We have to all stand together’: Northeast Kansas City immigrants go days without hea

    ‘We have to all stand together’: Northeast Kansas City immigrants go days without heat

    Jenna Thompson
    Sun, January 22, 2023 at 4:32 PM EST

    On a snowy January day, a man peels back the door to his apartment.

    A knit hat on his head and a puffy coat wrapped around him, he calls out in Burmese. Three children appear behind him in jackets and bounce as they stand in the doorway.

    They’ve been without heat since 2 a.m. Friday, he says. It’s Saturday now.

    “Somebody’s calling the owner, the manager, and nobody answered,” he told a bundled-up woman named Chaw Noud, another tenant. “Freezing.”

    He wants to know when the gas will come back on, but Noud isn’t sure, either.

    Noud walks up a staircase and points to a door with shoes piled outside. Her friends live there with their 7-month-old, but they’re not home.

    “Too cold for the baby,” Noud said.

    A scrap of cardboard is patched over a shattered window where a stray bullet flew through months ago, almost hitting a child inside, Noud says. The building’s exterior shows several places where duct tape and wood cover splintered glass. Some gaping holes remain untouched.

    By one tenant’s estimate, at least 12 families, most of them immigrants, lived in the building before a fire on Friday. After shutting off the gas to respond to the minor blaze, firefighters determined it was too dangerous to turn the gas back on.

    But the battered complex on Lawn Avenue is their home. So its residents shiver in their rooms, unsure when they’ll be warm again. Their inability to contact a property manager or receive necessary repairs is nothing new, tenants say. Conditions in the units have been poor for quite some time.

    The fire

    Jason Spreitzer, a spokesman with KCFD, said the building had several health code violations that were noted on site.

    While the Red Cross responded to the scene of Friday’s fire, the team was unable to determine who was a tenant, Spreitzer said.

    Squatters had overtaken several of the vacant units.

    Because a property manager could not be contacted that evening to confirm who was paying rent, nobody was relocated. The Red Cross could not be reached for comment.

    Chaw Noud, a resident, said the Lawn Avenue apartment complex has several leaks throughout.

    “There were multiple, multiple attempts to reach management by residents and by the city,” Spreitzer said. “... We had people making attempts and working overtime, to be able to try to make contact with ownership … with no success.”

    A woman with a red flower in her hair, Sofia Be, stands in the apartment of three other Burmese refugees — one blind, another sick with cancer.

    She translates for her neighbors, a couple who bundles up under blankets. Their adult son makes coffee in the kitchen.

    The woman sits up in bed to offer pastries before sinking back down again.

    “They just worry,” she said. “If they say, ‘Get up from this apartment,’ where are they gonna go?”

    Months before the fire, heat in their unit quit working, so the family kept warm with space heaters. They haven’t been able to receive mail at their address either, Be says, so they go to the post office to collect their letters and packages.

    Nobody in the wallpapered apartment knows who the building’s owners or property managers are — they say they’ve never met them. The woman adds something in Burmese, which Be interprets.
    “They don’t take their responsibility.”

    After living in the building for six years, Be has noticed conditions steadily grow worse.

    “I can’t say that it’s safe,” she said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

    Several of the complex’s vacant units have been overtaken by squatters.

    Months of complaints

    Noud opens the door to another building, revealing a series of extension cords snaking from an upstairs unit to the bottom of the stairs.

    She props open a once-vacant apartment to show an empty room, with the exception of a floor mat. On it, a loaf of bread, a few spice containers, and some wrappers. Whoever was there isn’t around on the chilly Saturday afternoon.

    City records for the property show seven code cases since July 2022, with complaints ranging from overflowing dumpsters to broken windows.

    A written complaint from October reads, “The property manager is doing NOTHING to keep the tenants safe. Two break ins, two fires within 5 days of each other and winter has not even come yet … A tenant went to court last week to press charges against a houseless man who masturbated in front of her while squatting in a vacant apartment.”

    In November: “Houseless people have set fires inside the homes to keep warm at night. … This leads to out of control fires that result in calls to the fire department.”

    The complex failed an inspection of the building’s structure in November and was set to be re-evaluated in March.

    By late Saturday afternoon, after almost two days without heat, help arrived for tenants in the form of city inspectors and fire department personnel. With Be as a translator, crews knocked on every tenant’s door, offering them a place to stay at a hotel for an undetermined amount of time.

    Who is responsible?

    Property records indicate 110 White Partners, managed by FTW Investments, purchased the building in 2021. Parker Webb, FTW’s chief executive officer, sent The Star a response via email Sunday afternoon.
    “We have worked immediately and diligently with the City of Kansas City’s SafeHomes program to relocate all affected tenants to safe, warm temporary housing while we get this issue resolved as rapidly as possible,” Webb’s email said. “However, we cannot continue to excuse actions like this by blaming any of the groups of people working to make housing affordable and nice for all residents of Kansas City.”

    Webb, who is also on the board of the social services organization reStart, said FTW would “continue to make sure this property is livable.”

    FTW has sold the property and paperwork was signed Thursday, but Webb indicated the closing has not yet been recorded.

    “FTW Investments will continue to cooperate, as they always have, with the fire and police departments as they work to solve this pressing problem and hold those individuals who committed this act of potentially deadly arson responsible for what they have done,” the company’s statement said.

    Tara Raghuveer, director of KC Tenants, was at the complex on Saturday to support the tenants and raise the alarm on social media. Her team sought to find a solution, shuffling through phone conversations with officials, though attempts to reach apartment management were unsuccessful.

    While the Lawn Avenue case may seem extreme, she said it’s far from an isolated incident.

    “People don’t know this goes down in Kansas City on a daily basis,” she said. “People who don’t speak English are just completely exploited.”

    As of Sunday, the future of the rundown property on Lawn Avenue is still unclear. Spreitzer said he’s unsure how long the residents who chose to bunk in hotels will be able to stay there, though many chose to brave their cold apartments, citing health concerns, wanting to stick close to work and being afraid to leave. A spokesperson from the city of Kansas City could not be reached.

    KC Tenants organized a supply drive on Sunday to give hats, coats, hand warmers and other warm clothing to residents left in the building.

    But Be hopes her neighbors will have a warm place to live soon — a safe, permanent home. The tenants on Lawn Avenue look after each other, in heat and freeze.

    “We have to all stand together,” she said, brushing tears off her face. “I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to be anything. I’m just trying to help people out.”

    Last edited by Beezer; 01-23-2023 at 09:28 AM.


  2. #2
    Moderator Beezer's Avatar
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    Apr 2016
    Boo hoo! I am sick of their damn sob stories.

    They need to be expelled back home. They stuff 20 people into one place and destroy properties.

    We have our own homless freezing in our streets living in cardboard boxes and tents!

    Who is paying for their cancer and medical care treatments!!! We are!

    This is outrages.

    They do not speak English, have been squatting in that dump for 6 years and they continue to breed more mouths they cannot feed. Cut off the taxpayer funded benefits, I do not want to pay for their romp in the sack, that is disgusting!
    Scott-in-FL likes this.


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