AUBURN -- “I miss everybody here and it’s really hard not … this is my family here.”

Kay Raney of the Westbury apartments in Auburn is anxious for residents displaced by an Aug. 3 fire to return home and says she is displaced herself over what she describes as toxic air hazards caused by water damage from a separate event.

Most residents have returned home after the fire, but gathered Wednesday to share concerns about the pace of repairs.

The apartment building accepts the disabled and elderly with income qualifications. Residents say there have been management changes and only two of six board members are still active.

Since the fire, two residents have been living at another portion of the apartment building and two are still housed outside of the facility. Raney says her church put her in a hotel after an upstairs apartment flooded, but she is now drifting between relatives and friends to find a place to stay.

Kay: “We just want to be able to live and love and take care of each other without the bullying. And get repairs done when needed instead of it pushed into a closet and forgotten.”

Alicia McMann’s mother has been displaced for 40 days and so have her cats. The cost of boarding the cats alone has grown to $700.

McMann: “Again insurance will cover this eventually, but my mom is on limited income this is just going to eat at what funds she does have.”

McMann: “She wants to go home … we all do … Yeah, everbody who is displaced wants to go home. They want a resolution to this.”

According to the residents, the solution is more than repairs of the structure, but a repair of trust.

 

Joe Huckle: “They are thinking that a few of us that are displaced will get discouraged and move someplace else before they fix it.”

Huckle, a Massachusetts transplant, arrived a year ago and says he was happy to help out by doing things, such as locking up at night and cleaning the laundry room. He said the chores did him some good by helping him feel that was making a contribution. He said he never demanded anything in return.

At one point there was some talk about an open apartment manager job, but Huckle said it never gained traction and he was content to just help out where he could.

Huckle: “The thing is I was doing a lot of repairs and things people needed and they sent me a notice saying stop immediately. I’m not even allowed to change batteries in a fire smoke detector.”

Huckle said he was surprised to learn how management was reacting to residents and how residents were being pitted against each other.

Huckle: “First of all she had told me the day before, you guys better watch out. I can hear and see everything you say and she goes ‘and I can get rid of any of you anytime I want. Let the residents know that I will evict them just for not liking them.”

Raney gathered signatures on a petition complaining of bullying, saying residents who spoke up with their concerns were sometimes told they could find a new place to live.  Raney said say they didn’t dare ask for outside help.

Huckle: “We have no one to speak for us. Literally, no one.”

McMann said there is fear among residents that the living environment will not improve.

McMann: “I think we’re just trying to figure out who can help here and we’re not finding those answers. It’s very frustrating when you can’t find those answers because obviously there has to be some way to get these things done in timely manner.”

Raney said she has been told to move back into her apartment despite her concerns that upstairs flooding left enough moisture in walls, vents and carpeting to produce dangerous mold. She says she feels ill when she is in the apartment.