Created: August 10, 2020 10:26 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Residents at the Rising Phoenix Apartments in southeast Albuquerque are worried they’ll be tossed back on the streets after the city promised to crack down on the apartments.
The apartments have been on the city’s radar for a while for numerous health violations and vandalism.
Richard Diab, a homeless advocate, said he’s been coming to the apartments for months to clean.
"We've been cleaning it. This was full of a lot of trash,” he said. "I care about these people here."
Diab said there are drug problems here, but claims the crime isn’t coming from the people who live here.
"Oh, watch out, it's horrible. There's all these drugs and all that—no it's not. These are wonderful people that live here. These people are just, no opportunity. Opportunities have been taken from them,” he said.
Tabitha Quintanna is one of those people.
"Because I lost my job from COVID and then I got another job, but it's not paying me as much as I was getting paid,” she said.
Quintanna said she used to clean houses to take care of her dying mother who moved in with her, but COVID changed everything.
"And I thought they had said you couldn't get kicked out because of COVID. I thought that was the law, you know? But, I guess not. My landlord still kicked me out,” she said.
Quintanna and her mother, who is battling cancer, both live at Rising Phoenix and don’t pay rent. They’re not the only ones.
"I've been living here since March, since when the virus started,” said Augusta Thomas, a resident.
“Lost our—we weren't able to pay rent. So, we found this place,” said Jose Escobar. “Yeah, really affordable. Well, free, actually, here."
Then there are those who said they were paying rent.
"And I'm like, well can I have my copy of my lease back. She goes, ‘Oh no it's been shredded,” said Roxanne, a former resident.
The woman said she was arrested for trespassing, but was legally living there. Now she’s back squatting in a badly damaged apartment with her husband who is going through chemotherapy.
"Oh, my gosh. I thought I walked into another world,” she said. “I feel like I'm stuck in a nightmare over here. It sucks because there's so many people here that are good people and struggling."
The city communicated with the property owner and said they have seven days to consolidate tenants into other buildings on the property so they can repair the most severely damaged ones, install temporary chain-link fencing around the damaged buildings, and hire a security company to patrol the property 24/7.
None of those things have happened so far.
Albuquerque City Councilman Pat Davis said they’re preparing to take the next steps.
"When we revisited it in July and nothing was happening. I asked city legal to step up and expedite the process, so this is the final straw by next week,” Davis said. “If they haven't cleaned up this property, moved people to safer places and really shown some progress, we have got a case to go to court and show that this is a dangerous place to be, and we're being serious about it. We have a record of cleaning up problem properties that owners aren't willing to be responsible for. “
Residents KOB 4 spoke with said they have little to no communication with management other than dropping off their rent checks at the office.
As far as security, squatters said APD shows up once in a while to check ID’s and see if anyone has warrants.
KOB 4 reached out to the owner and manager for comment, but no one replied before this story aired.
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