These families have been relocated to temporary housing, in hotels and elsewhere, while their units are remediated and repaired. As of Monday afternoon, the fundraiser has raised $3,333 of its $18,738 goal.
It is the latest move by the community leaders and residents who have been calling on affordable housing nonprofit AHC, which owns the property, to improve conditions at the complex. After two years of advocacy, and after involvement from the NAACP and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), organizers say the Serrano Apartments and its residents are finally getting the attention they deserve.
In the case of the families for which funds are being raised, more support is needed, organizers say.
“These families, all with school-aged children, have to replace beds, furniture, clothes and other household items and prepare to get their children ready for back-to-school as they relocate, return and try to restabilize their homes and families,” they wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“These families have suffered significant losses and were unexpectedly uprooted due to the lack of maintenance and care at the Serrano Apartments,” the page continues. “These families work hard, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and do not have additional finances nor renter’s insurance to assist them in replacing their belongings and to address other costs involved with resettling and restabilizing their homes and families.”
Former School Board member Tannia Talento, Arlington Schools Hispanic Parents Association member Janeth Valenzuela, Rev. Ashley Goff and local NAACP President Julius “J.D.” Spain put together the fundraiser. They said they hope to raise $4,000 for four families that spent more than two months in hotel rooms, $2,000 for one family that suffered some significant loss of their belongings, but could relocate to another affordable housing residence, and $738 for the GoFundMe fees and transaction costs.
Meantime, AHC has made some structural changes since the conditions came to light, including the resignation of their CEO. AHC hired an interim CEO, former Independent County Board candidate Susan Cunningham, to take the helm.
“I’m a straight shooter,” she told County Board members during a meeting in mid-July, two days into her new post. “I’m not going to sugar coat. I care a lot about accountability: my own, yours, ours as a community, and the problem-solving that it takes to deliver the kind of quality that we expect in the county.”
AHC and Cunningham are working with advocates and tenants to address repairs, the pest infestation and maintenance issues.
The interim CEO told the board she plans to have an in-depth update on progress in September.
She said AHC has “made good progress” but is not done rehousing the nearly 30 families who were placed temporarily in hotels earlier this year. Although the majority are in permanent homes — some with AHC and some in other complexes — a handful are still in hotels and considering their options, she said.
Meanwhile, AHC has three vendors on site trying to tackle an extensive mouse problem.
“We are filling holes, and we are getting ready to pull cabinets,” she said. “I think we’re getting on top of it, but we won’t feel that for sure for a couple of weeks.”
Fundraiser organizers say the same.
“Change is slow, and while we anticipate AHC will make these families whole again, it may take weeks before anything comes to fruition,” they said in the GoFundMe.
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