Seniors citizens living in Harriet Tubman Terrace and other low-income apartment complexes in the area hosted an event Sept. 9 to celebrate the tenant association’s housing ombudsman with the city of Berkeley.
According to the press release and email received by The Daily Californian, the tenants’ organizing efforts led to $100,000 in city spending to hire someone to investigate tenant complaints.
The press release noted that the advocate will act as a liaison between tenants, the landlord investment group and the management company, which has fallen into hot water facing allegations of mismanagement in the past.
In addition to celebrating, the rally aimed to uplift senior citizens struggling with issues of allegedly poor management, relocation and unsafe living conditions in Harriet Tubman Terrace, as well as other apartments from South Berkeley to Oakland.
Eileen Joyce, a tenant at the terrace, noted that the complex has changed over the years.
“It was social. Every Christmas they gave us a big Christmas party. On Thanksgiving, a big Thanksgiving party. Every holiday was recognized and the management paid for the food,” Joyce alleged. “And now the management pays nothing.”
The rally started with speeches from activists who described their community space as one “centered around love.” During the following press conference, tenants also discussed the challenges they were facing, and residents who have been actively fighting safer conditions spoke about the conditions of the complex.
Joyce, for instance, emphasized the problems she had faced in a wheelchair while living in the complex, alleging that the apartment had taken over eight months to fix her shower and moved her to another space that didn’t meet her needs.
“(The management) claimed they are done with the remodeling but in my apartment in order to get to the balcony you have to open a door, the rest of them have sliding doors which are much better for wheelchairs,” Joyce alleged. “Everything is very delayed.”
With similar complaints, senior citizens marched around the block with posters stating “Listen to Seniors,” “Senior Solidarity” and “Protect Our Elders.”
Darinxoso Oyamasela, president of Harriet Tubman tenant counsel, shared his own experiences fielding issues with the complex. He discussed times when residents were unaware of ongoing renovations on the apartment and options to relocate, and how he had to share this information with others.
“Out of the 91 apartments where 90 tenants live, there were only less than 20 that stayed in the hotel,” Oyamasela said. “The rest were made to stay here during the renovations even though they were removing asbestos.”
After the rally, residents dined and celebrated among each other, enjoying live jazz music performed by members.
Beverly Colton-Timms, tenant association chairperson at Sojourner Truth, noted that their hope is to be taken seriously, their living conditions fixed and security installed for their apartments.
“I worked in the homeless industry so I know what they’re supposed to do, I know that they should be looking for funding so that they can do the things and fix the buildings and fix the issues that we have,” Colton-Timms said. “But how are they supposed to take care of us if they don’t even talk to us?”