Mice infestation at clinton-peabody points to structural issues that keep residents suffering health news stlamerican.com gas jet

“For months, I’ve been complaining to the office about sewage problems that’s been going on,” said resident Tracey Boyd. “I’ve been at Peabody for four years. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been having problems and nothing has been solved.”

The Housing Authority told The American they started receiving reports of mice infestation last summer when a nearby building was demolished. With an older housing complex in serious need of updates and structural improvements nearby, the scattering mice had easy access to new homes, breeding grounds, and food sources.

“Of the 165 units that the health department inspected, they identified 95 as having housekeeping conditions that would be conducive to mice,” said Cheryl Lovell, executive director of the St. Louis Housing Authority (SLHA). “They got there some other way, but to get rid of them does involve some level of resident cooperation … as it relates to housekeeping issues.”

Advocates take issue with pointing to the tenants as the source of mice and roach infestation. They point out that health department inspection numbers on March 2 show out of the 358 units in 31 buildings at Clinton-Peabody, only 14.2 percent of units had housekeeping issues, down from 27.7 percent of those inspected in December 2017.

“What we’re seeing is documentation of residents complaining of mice problems going back at least three years,” said Sarah Turner, co-managing attorney in the Housing Law program at Legal Services. “Management was informed about access points, like holes around pipes, back in 2016, and this year it was still not being corrected when the health department began its inspection in late 2017.”

Just last week, the Housing Authority selected ND Consulting Group – which includes Tim Person and Associates, Grice Group Architects and Capital Consultants – to conduct a physical-needs assessment of the 358-unit complex at Clinton-Peabody. The feasibility study will include a market assessment of the area, capital expenditure planning, construction cost estimates, and project capital funds for the proposed redevelopment strategies.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure that the voices of the residents are heard and to continue to be heard,” said Lora Gulley, director of Strategic Initiatives at Generate Health STL, “to continue keeping the lines of communication open with what is the status of the inspections and the treatment that is performed by the Housing Authority.”

Noticeably absent at the meeting was a representative of the St. Louis Housing Authority. Lovell said they were not invited. Lovell said a flyer brought into their office by a resident about a half-hour before the Clinton-Peabody meeting specifically said “residents only.”

Gulley said the Housing Authority was not invited because residents requested to hear from their elected representatives and the health department at the meeting. Additionally, some residents “report it not being safe to openly share concerns with Management and the Housing Authority.” She said previous cancellations of three tenants association meetings prompted elected officials to call an emergency community meeting to hear concerns of their constituents.

At the meeting, Gulley said Generate Health learned there were some continual structural concerns that the residents had with existing inspections, “so inspections should also be including examinations and assessment of utility closets, which the residents don’t have access to.”

“We’ve clearly stepped up the exterminators’ visits to visit the units that the health department identified with mice – they were doing it twice a week for three months, and currently, they are doing it weekly because the number of complaints have dropped considerably,” Lovell said.

“We had another 13 calls for St. Louis City Department of Health to inspect the units,” Nasheed said. “Plugging the holes in the property trash dumpsters – that’s really where it all begins. The little mice are looking for food. If you have holes in dumpsters, they will continually go there to feed themselves. We ask that they plug those holes, clean the storm drains.”

Ingrassia has been working to help residents replace mattresses, clothes and other items that were destroyed by mice through a GoFundMe page and foundation support. She has also been helping residents get on budget billing with utility companies.

Residents have continually complained about foul odors emanating from inaccessible areas of the building, causing and exacerbating health issues, and making the units unlivable, along with unsealed doors and windows, and those that don’t open or close properly. Problems at one apartment forced Bernadette Nelson to move to another unit – that has its own structural and overwhelming odor problems.

“I have to wear a face mask; I am unable to live in that apartment. From Thanksgiving up until this day right now, I have lost 35 pounds, I can’t eat, can’t sleep. I eat like a little kid. I am ready to flip out about any little simple thing that makes me mad. But I walk away and take a deep breath. But it’s still not right. It’s not right at all.”