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Housing authority residents struggle with A/C problems

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Three-week-old Noel sleeps in his crib on Thursday.

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Tyler Stocks

Friday, July 19, 2019

Soaring temperatures are taking a toll on elderly residents and families with young children in about 50 public housing units managed by The Greenville Housing Authority.

The apartments are without working central air conditioning and residents are making do with window units and fans until repairs can be made. Some have been waiting for more than a month.

The heat is causing issues for Nautica Purvis and her three young children who live in Hopkins Park located off of Hopkins Drive. Two of Purvis’ children are 3 weeks old and the other is a year old.

“This heat is terrible,” Purvis said on Thursday afternoon.

Window units and fans have been installed, but Purvis said the temporary fix is not enough. The coolest it’s gotten inside her home is 82 degrees. She cannot cook inside and must buy prepared food and bring it home.

Purvis said the housing authority replaced her A/C unit but has since had to make multiple repairs. The last man who came out said he wasn’t authorized to put freon in, Purvis said.

“(The housing authority) said it’s a new unit but there’s no way it’s a new unit,” she said. “They came out and here and fixed it three times.”

She said the it went out last weekend and nobody has been out to work on it.

“I don’t understand. It’s too hot for all that,” Purvis said.

Housing Authority Executive Director Wayman Williams said Thursday that up to 50 apartments have been without working central air conditioning units. He said such units are not required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD.

“The housing authority and the City of Greenville decided some years ago that it was going to provide central air to all of its residents,” Williams said. “That’s not a HUD-mandated requirement but in order to go the extra step to ensure that our residents have the comfort level we feel like they deserve, we provide central air for everybody.

“Not all housing authorities do that,” Williams said. “In conjunction with the central air, unfortunately, there can be outages at any point and time and we have quite a bit of that.”

Williams said that while it’s taking time to address the issue, the housing authority has not forgotten about people.

“We have not neglected anyone. Right now, everybody has air, one way or another,” he said. “We have prioritized this as an emergency issue that we’re addressing and attending to.

“We’re actually going around to the residents, checking on them to see, ‘How are you doing?’" Williams said. “We’re concerned because we don’t want to have any health-related issues or any problems or complications with children and families and people with medical situations.”

A neighbor who lives down the street from Purvis has been without air conditioning for at least a month.

Kenny Arrington, who has lived in Hopkins Park since 1999, said his unit went out in the latter part of May and he just recently had a window unit put in. He went out and purchased fans to keep cool.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to be,” the 66-year-old Arrington, who also is a cancer patient, said. “I manage it but I guess (the housing authority) are doing the best they can do. They gave me a window unit and it’s better than nothing until they can get it right.”

Cheryl Wilson, who lives a couple of blocks down, said she has been without air since June. On Wednesday, the temperature inside her apartment was 94 degrees.

Wilson said she has had to sleep in the living room where the window unit is located instead of her bedroom.

“I just come back here on the sofa,” Wilson said.

When Wilson paid her rent in July, she asked when her A/C unit will be repaired and was told, “We’re working on it.”

“It’s not an emergency to them,” Wilson said.

Residents in nearby Kearney Park, which backs up to J.H. Rose High School, said they were without air conditioning for several weeks and in some instances longer.

Cynthia Thompson said her 66-year-old mother, who suffers from a variety of health problems including diabetes, arthritis, and vision problems, just had her unit fixed.

“I had to raise hell to get my mom air in here,” Thompson said. “She was without air for about a month. (The housing authority) came and put a window unit in her room but the rest of the house was burning up. I complained every day until they brought a compressor here.”

Williams said he understands how hot it is and that to help with the heat, window units and fans are being put in apartments until the AC units can be repaired.

“We have provided window units in instances where their unit can’t be timely fixed,” he said. “With the assistance of Greenville Utilities, we’ve had some boxed fans provided.”

One reason units have not been fixed according to Williams is that getting parts in takes time and technicians have more work than they can handle.

“Unfortunately, we’re in a season where there’s a lot of demand for technicians,” he said. “We’ve brought in private contractors to help us make sure we get all those central units fixed.

Williams said he asks residents to be patient and to know technicians are working as fast as they can.

“As those parts come in and as we can put the manpower there, we replace those units. We are responding and we want our residents to know that,” Williams said.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @Tylerstocks1987

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