Residents of Taft apartment complex given 3 days to vacate damaged homes
It was about 9:30 a.m. Monday when Ronica Gonzales heard a loud knock on her apartment door in Taft.
She opened the door to hear bad news from the manager of the Rincon Point Apartments complex.
The manager told Gonzales and 30 other families at the complex they had 72 hours to leave their homes because damage from Hurricane Harvey deemed some units of the complex unlivable.
Word they’d have to vacate was perplexing to many here, especially more than a month after the Category 4 storm made landfall Aug. 25.
Gonzalez was supposed to start a job Monday, helping care for a friend s blind daughter. The money she raised was to be her share of the rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the affordable housing complex she shares with her son, who turns 21 on Saturday.
Now, in shock, they must try to find an affordable, safe place to live.
I just paid my rent a few days ago, and my light bill yesterday. After that, I ve got nothing, said Gonzales, 44. I have no idea what we re going to do.
The complex is owned by Foundation of Hope, a nonprofit. Gonzales’ neighbors, many of whom are disabled or elderly, she said were in tears after hearing the news.
On-site property manager Katy Goben said she spoke to the owner last week. She said she was told at the time the property would be closed while it underwent two years of necessary repairs.
By Monday, the story had changed; her boss told her the property would be closed indefinitely due to health and safety reasons.
Ruben Garza, who formerly managed the property and now volunteering at Foundation of Hope, said the complex has mold, roof damage and leaks, an assertion backed up by city officials, who recently inspected it.
The news caught many, even Goben, off guard.
“I’m a tenant there myself. . I’m kind of at a loss to figure out my family as well,” Goben said. “I’m working with city, who is working with FEMA trying to get trailers for families. Hopefully, we’re able to get those.”
Taft City Manager Denise Hitt said the city received a complaint last Wednesday and a building inspector was sent to the apartments afterwards. Hitt said some apartments are not livable because of mold and roof damage, though some tenants question that assessment.
Goben said she is waiting to receive notices for the 72-hour eviction, which she plans to hand out to residents Tuesday. Foundation of Hope is attempting to refund deposits, Garza said.
Paul Perez lost his job because of Hurricane Harvey, but was somewhat relieved when he was recently approved for disaster unemployment assistance. Now, he and his two dogs have no place to go, he said.
“It’s heartbreaking to us. That’s my problem, where are we gonna go?” Perez asked, his voice beginning to break. “What am I supposed to do?”
Ellie Morin, a 55-year-old breast cancer survivor, has lived at the complex for 10 years. She said she has seen units with roof damage, some covered with a tarp.
Morin lives with her 28-year-old son, who has a heart condition. She said their unit wasn’t damaged.
“We’re here stuck, waiting,” Morin said. “The manager says she’s waiting on FEMA to get us RVs. How fast can they do that? I don’t know.”
Perez and Morin said residents were notified inspectors would examine the complex Friday, but the two said they didn’t see anyone inspect the property.
The city has asked for assistance from the Red Cross, FEMA and a church in Taft, Hitt said.
“At this point were going to have to shut it down. We have applied with FEMA and we’re talking to other individuals to see if they can take (the complex) over,” Garza said. “I didn’t want these people to be displaced. This is only avenue we had to go down.
“We’ve tried just about everything we can.”