FOX 8 Defenders: City Council President calls for actions at The Willows

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The President of the New Orleans City Council was astounded when she walked into an apartment at The Willows in New Orleans East.

FOX 8 first detailed what the residents describe as unsafe living conditions. Now, Helena Moreno says she wants the city to take immediate action.

Moreno wants answers. She tried to talk to management at The Willows apartment complex in New Orleans East during an unannounced visit, but whoever was inside wasn’t talking.

Touring Caroline Bailey’s home, Moreno viewed a hole in Bailey’s bedroom ceiling, about two feet wide, dripping water. Bailey says it’s been that way since 2019.

FOX 8 DEFENDERS: Residents complain of unsafe living conditions at The Willows

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this,” Moreno said.

Our first investigation revealed the issues at The Willows, with residents saying the conditions are unlivable so Moreno wanted to see for herself.

Moreno saw the hole in Bailey’s ceiling and the watermarks from where the water drips through to the second floor.

“That actually makes this unit uninhabitable, due to the…not only due to the mold but I actually think it’s a public safety concern because I’m concerned that her whole ceiling is going to further cave in,” she said.

Residents here say security is scarce. They’re afraid for their lives because of what they describe as almost nightly shootings and they’re sick of living in these conditions. The heaping mound of trash piled up in the corner of the complex stopped Moreno in her tracks.

Digging through city records we found the property, owned by Global Ministries Foundation, a religious non-profit based out of Tennessee, has been cited by New Orleans code enforcement eight times since 2019. Some of the violations include plumbing maintenance, fire alarm and detection systems, a violation for the roofs of the buildings, exterior surfaces, and sidewalks. Fines were assessed but according to documents obtained by FOX 8, some of them were never paid.

“It’s already hard enough to go after these out of town owners but the first step has to be really aggressive code enforcement action and documentation,” Moreno says. “You almost have to come in here and do full on sweeps that include code enforcement, NOPD, and the health department so that’s what I’m going to call for.”

Cierra Dobard also deals with problems with the walls in her apartment.

“It feels like its sinking in and it feels like it’s going to collapse. So this is an issue they never fixed,” Dobard told Moreno.

Dobard says reporting the issues to management never seemed to go anywhere.

“When they address our problems, they take down our information, take down our concerns but nothing ever gets done afterwards,” Dobard said.

We tried to get an on-camera interview with someone from Global Ministries or PAC Housing Group, a property management company that oversees the complex, but no one would go on camera with us. The CEO of PAC Housing Group is Dr. Richard Hamlet, an ordained minister who Moreno feels isn’t exactly looking out for his flock.

“This is terrible and I can’t believe anyone would be ok with having someone live in these conditions,” Moreno said. “And I have to say this too, Meg, that if you wouldn’t have come out here, I don’t think that management would be taking any type of action, because they’ve been cited by code enforcement in the past and nothing has happened. So it’s only because you came here with a camera that something has finally happened with this particular property.”

Moreno says if the city is able to perform a code enforcement sweep of the property and deems any home uninhabitable, the city will work with the residents to determine where to go and how. Tuesday, a spokesperson for PAC Housing Group sent us a statement, saying work on the property is delayed because of pandemic challenges and Hurricane Ida.

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