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Standing outside in 40-degree weather, tenants at Oak Lane Court Apartments said they’re not scared to voice their disappointment with SBG Management. They want their apartments fixed.
On Thursday evening, more than 40 people stood outside the complex in Northwest Philadelphia to make their demands. With papers in one hand and a megaphone mic in the other, current tenant Juanita Clark said she and her fellow residents can’t keep living like this. They say issues include a lack of heat, a broken elevator, roach infestations, and mold. But the most pressing is the lack of working heaters.
“Just last month, me and my children had to sleep in the cold for four days with no heat, no hot water because the landlord didn’t pay his half of the gas bill,” Clark said, adding elevators are a necessity for older tenants. “I see disabled elderly taking [their] groceries up the stairs by themselves. People with oxygen tanks who can’t even breathe taking the stairs.”
She said the issues keep mounting. Clark has been living at Oak Lane for 14 months, but after speaking with neighbors she learned that some had been living without heat or working elevators for years.
The situation has worsened, to the point that some tenants have been using their stoves to heat their apartments. Kyreim Carter said she and her 16-year-old have been living in a cold apartment since November.
“I’m still freezing. I got the oven on,” Carter said. “[I was told to] put a pot of water to kill the carbon monoxide.”
The goal of the protest, organizers said, is to shine a light on the “deplorable” living conditions and to get management to repair apartments within nine days.
“Because you got these people thinking this is how they supposed to live and that’s not fair,” Clark said.
Another tenant, Johnny Fears, said in his four years living there, he’s never seen issues addressed. He too lacks a working heater.
“This is the first time since I’ve been here four years that people have ever [stood] up to these people,” he said.
Though they constantly contacted property managers to get their heaters fixed, residents say they were often ignored. SBG Management told WHYY News that the tenants’ claims are “all lies.”
The protest attracted people like Andre D. Carroll, who is running for Pennsylvania state representative.
“I’m from this community. My grandmother…lived just a few blocks away from here,” Carroll said. “I know what it means to wear multiple layers of clothes because the house is too cold. I know what it means to be ignored.”
At the end of the day, tenants are determined to get the word out. For now, they are making calls, talking to their neighbors and saying they will not stop fighting for their rights.
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