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Search for answers, housing and resources continue for displaced Crystal Lake residents

Meeting hopes to answer questions from apartment complex evacuees

Macon-Bibb County commissioners Virgil Watkins Jr. and Al Tillman held a town hall meeting for Crystal Lake Apartment residents Tuesday night at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.
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Macon-Bibb County commissioners Virgil Watkins Jr. and Al Tillman held a town hall meeting for Crystal Lake Apartment residents Tuesday night at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Just days after having to evacuate from their unsafe Crystal Lake apartments, T.W. Foster was among the dozens of tenants gathered inside a Macon church for a town hall.

The meeting was an opportunity for the 70 displaced residents to get an update on the condition of their apartments and learn more about the resources available as they look to transition back to permanent housing. Foster, a 58-year-old who works at a Goodwill of Middle Georgia warehouse, says he has just enough to keep his “head above water” for about a month.

It’s been a difficult situation for Foster, but he said he understands there may be other Crystal Lake tenants with even more pressing needs.

“If you have a job, make a sacrifice and that way others who are more unfortunate and need help more than you can take your position,” he said following Tuesday’s meeting at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Foster and others were forced to leave the complex located off Chambers Road last week after Macon-Bibb officials cited a series of code violations. The inspections were in response to complaints about a lack of water and electricity to several of the buildings.

In one instance, the owner is even placing blame on some of the residents, said County Commissioner Al Tillman, who hosted the meeting along with Commissioner Virgil Watkins.

“This is about a property owner who failed miserably to keep their residents safe,” Tillman said.

In response to the evacuation, various people, community organizations and others rallied to gather donations and offer other assistance to those were displaced.

One of those was Sheknita Davis, with In His Image Agency, who was among those who worked to get enough donations to get hotel rooms for two dozen families to stay in.

While there has been a strong amount of community support, more help is needed, she said.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can that this community has to offer,” Davis said. “Our main focus is that you have somewhere to go, that you have some food... I know this is stressful.”

The Salvation Army of Central Georgia, Daybreak, the Macon Coalition to End Homelessness and other nonprofits also had representatives on hand Tuesday.

Sister Theresa Sullivan mentioned the Daybreak Macon phone app that lists places to get free meals, showers and where people can lay their heads for a few days.

The largest local shelter is at the Salvation Army, which also can offer case managers to help people get back on their feet, said Naomi Ladson, the organization’s social service director.

There are plans for a pop-up food pantry for the Crystal Lake evacuees, said June O’Neal, with the homeless coalition.

The town hall was also a chance for some of the displaced renters to vent their frustrations, about everything from rent to how a situation got so bad that some say they no longer want to move back even if the conditions are improved.

However, the situation this week was still bad enough that it’s unlikely Crystal Lake residents would be able to move back in anytime soon, Tillman and Watkins said.

Stanley Dunlap has covered government for The Telegraph since June 2015.


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