Housing is that one thing everyone needs. But increasingly, it is becoming that one thing many people can’t afford or find decent enough to live in. It’s a fact Shalonda Rivers knows all too well. You’ve met her before in this column. She’s a mother, dedicated churchgoer and president of the tenant association at Cordoba Courts Apartments in Opa-locka.
Lately, Rivers has become a recognized leader in housing advocacy work. All thanks to her landlord’s lack of care of the building in which she lives and HUD’s faulty way of doing business. She didn’t take any classes to achieve this; she earned the right to be one by having to live in awful housing conditions, for years.
“What they are doing just isn’t right,” says Rivers.
It was just last year when Rivers reached out to us to reveal the living conditions at Cordoba Courts, a government subsidized, low-income community. I’m still in shock from what I saw during just one of my visits to the property.
The management company and owner of the building, Millennia Housing Management Ltd., began to make some changes after we broke the news. One of the first changes that happened back on Sept. 14, 2018. On that day, Millennia identified units that were in need of serious repairs and moved those families into to a hotel, in order to give the units the repairs needed. Rivers’ unit was one of them.
The hotel fees and moving expenses are all being covered by Millennia. It seemed like a pretty good deal at first. But after eight long months of living in a hotel room and having to drive much further to take her children to school, Rivers doesn’t know when she’ll get a chance to move back home. Her apartment and some of the other residents’ units remain the very same way they left them back in September. Rivers said Millennia hasn’t give her a timeline for completion or a move-in date.
“Nope, I have asked in an email, and they have failed to respond.”
And if you know Rivers, she sure can get those emails out on behalf of all the residents at Cordoba Courts. Now, she’s working to build the tenant association at the 183/187 Street Apartments in Miami Gardens. That’s a shame Millennia has not responded to her yet.
Despite her current living conditions, Rivers has not lost sight of her dream to live in safe, decent and affordable housing. She continues to pray and fight for fair housing. She has joined two national housing associations.
“I’m learning a lot about how housing is supposed to work. I even got a chance to attend a national housing policy conference in Washington, D.C. It was my very first time getting on a plane,” said Rivers.
In addition to her new experiences, Rivers has also been featured in the University of Miami School of Law for her advocacy, voice and determination in her ongoing eviction case, which came about, Rivers believes, out of retaliation for speaking up about the awful living conditions. Though the eviction process was a lengthy, she won in the end. She took the first step - speaking out. But she’s far from being done. As a matter fact, this week, on Wednesday, June 5 at 5 p.m. at Cordoba Courts, she is going to take her advocacy to the streets. Rivers and other groups will join together in an effort to raise awareness about the housing crisis along with the dire need for housing that is safe, decent and affordable.
Rivers is leading the change she wants to see. You can, too.
Got a housing story to share? Housing un-affordability got you living in rut? Let’s hear about it! Contact Daniella Pierre to [firstname.lastname@example.org].