‘They’re treating us like caged animals’ Swanson Homes residents still without hot water, heat

Posted at 9:20 PM, Oct 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-24 23:10:21-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Some families living in Swanson Homes, a Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority property, have not had hot water or heat since Hurricane Matthew hit Hampton Roads.

That's two weeks and two days, according to families.

"They're treating us like caged animals," says a woman who asked News 3 to keep her anonymous.

Raven Hill, a mom of four children four-years-old and under, says she already used her kids' Christmas money for a hotel during the storm. Like many homes, her first floor was flooded out.

Now she says she has to deal with living in the aftermath, which includes a ton of ruined furniture, kids' toys, clothing, and mice. One of her biggest concerns is mold.

"It's not fair," she says.

The interim Executive Director of PRHA, Donnell Brown, says there are now thirty residents without hot water, that can boil water in the meantime. Their hot water heaters are through a contractor out of Richmond, so she says the process takes some time.

She says they also have a company looking for mold issues in the apartments and all but three of them have been remediated.

As families wait for answers, separately, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that they are doing an on-site review of PRHA in December.

News 3 spoke with Portsmouth Vice Mayor, Elizabeth Psimas, who says she was outraged to see the letter.

For months, she has pushed for council to get rid of PRHA's Board of Commissioners, a group of volunteers that council appoints.

"This is really, really serious," she says. "I don't know what's going on over there but clearly something is terribly wrong, HUD will get to the bottom of it."

Mayor Kenny Wright did not want to comment on the review, but did say he "welcomes" the investigation.

Councilman Danny Meeks said that the investigation is a "black eye" for the city. Other council members could not be reached for comment on Monday night.

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