FARGO — Living under the threat of coronavirus and what residents call poor management, two dozen tenants of New Horizons Manor say they're frightened of current conditions in the subsidized apartment complex.
Some, because of disabilities, cannot move easily, and the complex is no longer as disabled friendly as it once was, residents say. Some say they may move out, even though the complex was recently renovated.
Residents have tried to bring up safety, inaccessibility and sanitation issues with management, but so far they’ve been ignored, said Brenda Neubauer, a five-year resident of New Horizons who's been organizing the group of concerned tenants.
Neubauer has been documenting what she and others say they are experiencing as tenants. “The trash cans are often overflowing. Hallways are not being cleaned. Laundry rooms are not being cleaned. Concerns about exposure to illness, due to lack of cleaning,” states Neubauer's report, which has the signatures of 24 New Horizons tenants.
The Fargo Housing and Redevelopment Authority runs New Horizons Manor, a building for low-income and disabled people at 2525 Broadway N. Neubauer said she's tried to file complaints with management, and then with the housing authority on three different occasions.
Matthew Pike, executive director of the housing authority, told The Forum he couldn’t comment on the matter other than to say, “Yes and absolutely. We've identified that some of these issues are COVID-related, and we will get to the bottom of each and every concern that is raised, and they will be addressed not just quickly, but fully and completely to the best of our ability.”
Originally built in 1972, New Horizons Manor has 74 one-bedroom units and 24 two-bedroom units. The complex’s last listed inspection by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Real Estate Assessment Center was on March 13, 2019, when it received a passing score of 80 out of 100. In August 2019, the complex celebrated finishing a $7.2 million renovation.
'The way it used to be'
On a warm summer day, a group of about 10 residents gathered on the north-side patio to discuss why they’re unhappy. Some, like Dorothy Olson who has lived in the apartment building for 42 years, don’t want to move, and they’re scared with the pandemic raging around them.
“It used to be really pretty good, except for the plumbing, but now with the toilets they’ve put in it is really worse,” Olson said. At night, she said she hears a vibration, like water, running behind her bedroom wall.
“It wakes up just about everyone in the building, or seems like it,” said Melissa Peterson, who is blind and has lived in the complex since the 1990s. “But I like being here, it is a very good location. I just want to see it go back to the way it used to be.”
Tenant complaints include worries about failing elevators, problematic tenants who are traumatizing neighbors, lack of sanitation, especially in elevators and near entrances, and inadequate disinfection procedures during the pandemic.
“I would like to see our floors clean. We got a virus in this town,” said Carol Erickson, who moved to New Horizons two years ago on the advice of her doctor. “All we want is for Housing to at least talk to us and listen to our complaints.”
Some tenants confined to wheelchairs say they cannot access bathroom sinks or cook in the kitchens any longer because they cannot reach the surfaces.
“When they remodeled, they didn’t have any consideration for the disabled at all,” said Olson from her wheelchair. “I can’t even reach the sink in my wheelchair. I’m scared to walk in my walker on these floors."
Jamie Thingvold, who has lived in New Horizons Manor with her significant other, Steven Evitt, for about two years, said she’s fallen because the floors are too slippery.
Evitt said they may move out because his main problem is with management. "I don’t see them doing anything for us," he said.
'They just brush us off'
James Shepherd, a two-year resident, has only one leg and said he is on dialysis.
“This is where we are going to finish our lives,” Shepherd said. “And this is the time we need our building cleaned every day. But I go to them with my problems and I admit, I got angry being because I’ve gotten tired of all this … but they just brush us off.”
Shepherd and a five-year resident, Adam Kluth, said some building tenants are causing problems and police are having to respond more than they can remember.
Since Jan. 20, Fargo police have responded to 16 calls at New Horizons Manor, with reports ranging from disturbances, public assists, theft, narcotics, and suspicious activity, according to police spokeswoman Jessica Schindeldecker.
“They need a social worker in the building,” Shepherd said.
“It’s gotten so bad that I feel like inviting the police in every time they come, for a piece of pie and some coffee,” Erickson said.