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Tenants of Seaview Lofts seek housing assistance as their hotel stay ends

housing fair
Posted at 3:41 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 18:00:53-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Dozens of Newport News families forced out of their homes are scrambling to find a place to call home.

Since Seaview Lofts was condemned nearly two weeks ago, tenants have been staying at nearby hotels, but that’ll come to an end Thursday, July 14.

Wednesday, the city held a resource and housing fair at the cultural arts center to help displaced folks.

At the fair, tenants got information to help with food, childcare, legal aid, and information on available housing for them and their pets.

Peggy Hawkins attended the event with her son. He’s lived at Seaview Lofts for 12 years and his mother said she worries about where he’ll live.

“You don’t know what you’re going to do from one day to the other and it concerns me,” Hawkins said.

The pair is seeing what options they have, but with rising rent and a low supply in the housing market, Amy Disel Allman, the director of advocacy with the Virginia Legal Aid Society, said the timing couldn’t be worse.

“The housing marking is difficult right now,” Disel Allman said. “It’s difficult for anyone looking, let alone someone that is looking with very little notice and need something right away.”

Nathan Robinson is one of many Seaview Lofts residents staying in a hotel after residents were forced to leave when Newport News codes compliance deemed the building unsafe.

"12 o'clock is check-out time," Robinson said.

Robinson doesn’t know where he and his son will be sleeping Thursday night.

"We have personal property in that building that is locked up that we can’t even get to," Robinson said.

"Did you pay July's rent?" News 3's Leondra Head asked Robinson. "Everything is paid three months in advance," Robinson said.

"My State Farm rental insurance is paid up for the year and they can’t even assist me," Robinson said.

"Are they going to reimburse you?" News 3's Leondra Head asked Robinson.

"I was told by the city, the only way I would get my money back is through civil court," Robinson said.

He also says he’s given up hope that the elevator will be fixed anytime soon.

Robinson went to a housing fair hosted by the City of Newport News to identify resources for residents.

"Human service moving assistance pamphlet with different companies on it that will help you move. Which I’m not interested in. I’m interested in moving back into my apartment. Basically, information that you can google," Robinson said.

Robinson showed us paperwork that one Newport News apartment building gave out offering to waive processing fees for applicants who apply for housing.

With a housing shortage, apartment inventory is low in Newport News. We called four different apartment complexes in a 5-mile radius of Seaview Lofts. None of them had any availability until late August.

Many fear they’ll be homeless.

Meika Davis knows the feeling. Once homeless herself, she’s now helping tenants by not only giving them a hot meal through her catering service Lady M Soul2Soul Catering, but also support.

“My hope is to show them love with my food,” Davis said. “I want them to taste the love in my food. I want to serve them, and I just get a joy out of serving.”

THRIVE Peninsula is also stepping in to help its neighbors in need.

The nonprofit is providing food and help with deposits for a new place, but volunteer Terrye Williams said even they’re stretched thin.

“Unfortunately, we are having to turn people away,” she said. “We need groceries. We need volunteers.”

Hawkins is remaining hopeful. Her son is staying with her in the meantime, but the stress is now taking a toll.

“I lose sleep and I’m pretty sure he do too, wondering what tomorrow’s going to bring,” said Hawkins. “Do they have a solution? Will he ever be able to get back into his apartment? If not, will they help him get into an apartment he’s comfortable in?”

The fair ran until 7 p.m. For information about resources, click here.