Organization continues work to support displaced Omaha apartment residents
About 250 units identified for Legacy Crossing Apartments occupants, but more still needed
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A day after hundreds of residents were evicted from an apartment complex in northwest Omaha, Heartland Family Service said that they were working multiple fronts to assist those residents in getting their belongings and to help them find new places to live.
Omaha officials told residents Monday morning at Legacy Crossing, an apartment complex in the northwest part of the city, that they needed to relocate because of safety concerns. Omaha Fire and housing inspectors began Monday morning relocating residents at the apartment complex, due to “severe fire and housing code violations.”
Mindy Paces, vice president of housing safety and financial stability for HFS, said during an update Tuesday morning that as of 8 p.m. Monday, the organization had connected with 132 households — 230 adults and 145 children — to get them into temporary housing or make sure they otherwise had shelter. HFS connected with an additional 10 households since then, she said.
During the update Tuesday, Paces said HFS had assigned case managers to those needing help but also put the call out to any Legacy Crossing tenants whom the organization had not yet connected with to have them reach out for assistance.
NEED HELP? Legacy Crossing residents in need of assistance finding housing were advised to contact Heartland Family Service at 531-721-7401. Those who wish to offer assistance or volunteer are asked not to call this number so that it can remain open for those needing help.
WANT TO HELP? Those who would like to volunteer or offer other sorts of assistance are asked to reach out online or call 402-552-7418. You can also make a donation to HFS or to Legacy Crossing residents via the Omaha Community Foundation.
Paces said that HFS had estimated about half were relocated to hotels with kitchenettes, and the other half were staying with friends or family. Gift cards have also been distributed to assist with food and meal costs.
HFS has identified 250 units that are available to house those who have been displaced, but Paces stressed they won’t be an exact match for the need of the displaced tenants due to the various family sizes, available unit sizes, and price ranges those households require.
“I wish it were that way, but it’s not,” Paces said.
MAACH Connect is assisting with deposit and first month’s rent in order to get residents into their new permanent housing quickly. HFS will also be internal resources as needed in order to provide that assistance quickly.
Paces said that about 80 of those families are OPS students, so HFS is also working to make sure they are able to stay in the school district if they want to, and to make sure they are picked up at their new location.
The timeline for these transitions is certainly not without its challenges. Weather impacts are expected to bear down later this week and businesses will be closed or have shorter hours over the holidays. But Paces said HFS doesn’t have hard deadlines for placing tenants, and dedicated staff that will work hard to help those residents make the necessary transitions.
Noting that it’s important that families feel secure about where they go to live, Paces said displaced residents are given the autonomy to be able to make decisions about their new housing.
“One of our core values is really honoring voice and choice, so families have — just like you or I — have autonomy to say, ‘This what I need for my family, and this is what I can afford, and this is where I want to live,’” she said. “So we try — our case managers, our goal is not to sit down and say, ‘Here’s a list of units. Go apply for this one and this one.’ It’s really: ‘We have some units identified. You tell me what best meets the needs of your family, and how can we help support you getting into that unit.’”
With the city putting a deadline of the end of the year for residents to clear out their belongings — and the holidays and weather making moving maneuvers rather tricky under normal circumstances — HFS has been working to prioritize storage units so that people can make sure to get their belongings out while still looking for their new homes.
“Just like, you know, if I’m looking for an apartment, I’m likely not going to pick the first one that I see,” Paces said. “It might take varied amounts of time for people, and we certainly want wherever people land for that to be their home and to not feel like they have to be pressured into staying somewhere because they’re in this state of crisis.”
HFS does inspect the housing environments they’re helping people move into so that they’re not moving into a place facing similar issues as Legacy Crossing.
Acknowledging the frustration some have been feeling about the timeline of notification, Paces said that while the timeline and other decisions about the livability status of the units weren’t “within the scope” of HFS, had residents been notified of the evictions earlier than Monday, there would not have been a proper structure in place to offer assistance.
“It’s not an ideal situation either way,” she said.
The HFS “rapid rehousing team” was at the complex helping displaced residents. HFS had said Monday that staff will work throughout the week to assist all impacted individuals and families.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Paces said Tuesday, noting that the HFS staff is very committed to helping the residents through their housing transitions.
According to Monday’s release from the mayor’s office, the fire department had become involved after a hoarding complaint. That report led fire inspectors to find further violations, including electrical hazards caused by damaged and vandalized furnaces, faulty fire doors and malfunctioning emergency exit lighting, as well as a lack of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors.
More recent violations found included residents living in units with no heat and some dealing with standing water containing raw sewage. There were also incidents of vandalism happening in some of the vacant units.
Heartland Family Service has led the efforts to assist displaced residents. The Apartment Association of Nebraska has also offered support, helping to identify 100 immediate housing options within similar rent ranges.
Watch Tuesday’s full update
This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.
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