The Memphis Housing Authority says investigation into drawback solvers uncovered issues with the company
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – When a tenant was nearly evicted in December because the Memphis Housing Authority was in arrears with her rent payments, the woman’s landlady called the WREG troubleshooter. The subsequent investigation revealed problems with the agency, which looks after around 26,000 families.
Emma Caldwell, 68, has multiple sclerosis and needs an aide help five days a week. She can’t work either.
The Memphis Housing Authority provides vouchers that she can use to pay for most of her rent in her Whitehaven apartment.
She said she had no problems until a few months ago when her landlord was so frustrated that he called the WREG problem solvers.
“We tried to do everything. We tried to connect her with her to help, ”said Adam Rudman, Manager of Apartments Near Me.
Lease payment delays have been fixed, but the Memphis Housing Authority issue could result in incorrect evictions
According to Rudman, Housing Authority officials kept saying they did not have the correct papers and were no longer paying their rent. Rudman was worried he would have to drive her away.
“Three months with no payment from them,” said Rudman.
Caldwell and her help showed copies of the forms the Housing Authority needed.
“I did everything right and filled out all of my papers,” she said.
“The first time the fax was wrong and then she turned and faxed it again,” said her aide.
To add to her frustration, Caldwell described a pattern of rudeness on the part of the Housing Authority representative.
She said, ‘Ms. Caldwell, I’m telling you, won’t you call that number again? ‘Everyone wants to feel like human. Everyone. I may not be able to do certain things. But I know how to deal with people, ”said Caldwell.
When WREG contacted the Memphis Housing Authority in December for details on Caldwell’s case, they sent a statement that read, in part, “It has never completed its annual recertification process, which was due by October 1st. Given the current pandemic conditions and their older status, we will go ahead and process your help. “
In an interview with the problem solvers, Marcia Lewis, CEO of the Memphis Housing Authority, took full responsibility for Caldwell’s case and explained what could have happened.
“We don’t go to people’s houses. We don’t send inspectors in, ”she said, although normally she would have sent someone to personally take care of the paperwork confusion.
The case also revealed major problems with her agency; She said they were unable to handle the pandemic in almost every facet of their operation.
“Not being able to hold briefing sessions in person, not being able to recruit landlords,” she said. “We had to order additional computers because people don’t have computers to work at home and monitor mailboxes. Half of our employees work two days, the other half two days. We are in the process of buying cell phones. “
She said they are also in the process of redesigning their website to allow customers to submit forms electronically and launch video inspections and a new call center feature on their phone lines.
The CARES Act funds of $ 3.5 million will be used for the upgrades.
“We realize that it was difficult for our customers because it was difficult for us,” said Lewis. “People don’t know and shouldn’t have to turn to me. You shouldn’t have to go up the chain. “
The problem solvers submitted an open file request to the agency to find out if someone was evicted because of these problems. They said they didn’t find any cases.
Lewis said they spotted issues like Caldwell’s in a timely manner before escalating into any type of eviction related to the rent.
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