'We have no place to go after today': Nearly 30 Suffolk Tower families remain displaced after fire

Hotel vouchers expire Thursday
Suffolk Tower Apartments residents still  displaced.jpg
Posted at 3:29 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 13:34:26-04

SUFFOLK, Va. - Everything Annette Brown and her husband have in order to live sit inside a small Suffolk hotel room.

"I'm shaking inside, and I've been crying off and on thinking about it," she said.

Thinking about come Friday, she and and 27 other residents displaced from Suffolk Tower Apartments last week will have no place to sleep.

"One minute we were told we could go back, then we were turned around, came right back here," Brown said.

She called Suffolk Towers on N. Main Street home for 20 years, but her building was set fire last week. Since then, she's been here.

"As of tonight, this is it. It's really nerve-wracking," she said.

Resident Jackie Edgehill, also staying at the hotel, just wants to get her personal belongings.

"We are not allowed in building and want to get our things, and we haven't been told anything," said Edgehill.

As for the building, the City of Suffolk deemed 27 units unsafe on July 13 and said, "It couldn't be reoccupied without new door unit replacements and smoke detectors."

Thursday, the building remained chained and locked. The City of Suffolk put up signs on the doors stating they were denied entry for an inspection this week.

"We have not been provided information from Alperin Law, the owners of the building, regarding the City of Suffolk’s inability to enter the building for the inspection, nor any information regarding tenant access."

News 3 spoke to Scott Alperin Thursday, who is representing the landlord.

Alperin told us his client hired an electrical engineer who inspected the property on July 20 and said replacing doors and smoke detectors would not be suitable for the safety of the tenants, thus no need for an inspection.

Along with heat and smoke damage, Alperin said they are requesting a full building inspection to get the building ready for safe occupancy.

"Safety is paramount; not just putting up doors and smoke detectors. This is a life safety issue, and it would not be in good conscious to let people in," said Alperin.

Alperin told us that the landlord also has no legal obligation to provide shelter to tenants when displaced, but they have already spent tens of thousands of dollars doing so to help the residents. Alperin said they are unable to continue to do so after Thursday night.

Alperin also told us they will soon be scheduling tenants to come in to get their belongings.

Related: Before arson, a number of incidents have been found to impact local apartment building

The City of Suffolk is working with faith-based community and local non-profits to secure short-term housing and assistance to affected residents while they transition to permanent housing, as is the landlord.

City staff tell News 3 they are also currently reaching out to local hotels to determine availability in order to assist those that have been impacted.

On July 27 News 3 got an update from the City and officials said they are "continuing to coordinate with non-profit organizations to assist the Suffolk Tower residents who have been displaced. At this time, STOP Inc. is working to assess the needs of the displaced families and to assist those who qualify for their relocation services. To allow time for the necessary assessments to be completed, the City of Suffolk Department of Social Services will continue to provide vouchers for the hotel stays, up to August 2."

Suffolk’s Department of Social Services was made aware on July 27, that the Quality Inn & Suites intended to raise their rates from the previously agreed-upon $700.00 per week to $1,116.00 per week. A total of 34 of the residents that were displaced from the Suffolk Tower Apartments were staying at that location, occupying a total of 16 rooms.

Officials have made contact with several other local hotels regarding available accommodations and secured rooms at the three different locations beginning Tuesday.

A bus will be provided to provide transportation assistance for those affected individuals.