Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Forgotten Families" move out while landlord plays coy

I spent about an hour on North Hill today as housing inspectors revisited the apartment building featured in my March series "Forgotten Families" which found scores of local immigrants living in deplorable conditions.

Let's just say that I probably got more accomplished in my hour of standing on the sidewalk than the inspectors did. That's because I got a complete story while inspectors got a short tour and not much else.

Team chief Jody Forrester said her crew had hoped to inspect more than 20 apartments to assess the roach, rat, and light problems .. as well as overcrowding .. that was documented after our series ran three months ago.

Since then, the building's landlord, Tom Keith, has submitted paperwork indicating that he's made repairs and has chased the roaches and rats -- or at least some of them -- out of the area.

But when Forrester and her team arrived Thursday, Keith gave them access to just three apartments claiming that he didn't have keys for the rest and/or the residents were prepared to be inspected because Keith hadn't told them the city was coming to visit.

In other words, a thorough inspection that should have taken well over an hour was instead over in just minutes.

Keith had few words for us other than telling our videographer to stay off his property.

Inspectors will be back in about 30 days for yet another follow-up.

Most of these immigrants arrived in Akron in 2007. The "Karen" had fled their native Myanmar for refugee camps in Thailand. That's where the U.S. State Department got involved and gave them a lift to Ohio.

What concerns me most is what happened to some of these families? Forrester said that ten of the overcrowded apartments were vacated after Keith gave them 30-day notices to move out. He doesn't know where they've gone, Forrester said.

My calls to the International Institute, which helped relocate these immigrants to Akron last year, have yet to be returned.

I've heard that Keith owns another apartment building with lots of immigrants a few blocks away, but I'm not sure if any of the Karen people have relocated there.


Village Green said...

Very cool to find your video segments here. I'm sorry to say, I just am not interested in watching your Cleveland station, nor do I watch network news. 24 hour cable tv and the internet have it immediately. I did watch the 23 news because it was all Akron. Really don't enjoy watching Cleveland crime stories etc.

Anonymous said...

village green this was akron news. my husband,our son, and I had the misfortune of living there, he (my husband) was a croation refugee.Just So you know there were just as many jugoslavians and americans done wrong by this man, our home was broken into there, Tom "evicted" the guilty tenant that lived across the hall, yes directly acrossed. We found our selves the next "duplex" down on schiller(also sub-par conditions), the guy he supposivly evicted lived there far longer after we moved. My husband and I return there tomorrow in our apartment search, this time the building is under new management. We can only hope the once nightmare is more like a dream with mr. keith out of the way. I must say I am eager to see the place, atleast this manager doesn't let child malestors (unlike tom) and people making crack and meth move into the place.