Help on the way for Swanson Homes residents, but could more have been done?

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority is now working to get hotel arrangements for more than 30 residents of Swanson Homes who have been without heat or hot water for 17 days.

Many first floor units flooded during Hurricane Matthew, ruining hot water heaters.

“My daughter, she has cerebral palsy and I can’t have her living in these conditions. Like at all. Period,” said Tarnesha Crawley. “I don’t have to risk a seizure. I can’t keep giving her baths over a bowl.”

Tuesday morning, 10 On Your Side asked PRHA Interim Executive Director Donnell Brown what’s being done for these residents.

“Let me just say to you, they can boil hot water. We are doing everything possible to try to get those units back online,” Brown said.

But boiling water, lack of heat, and concerns about mold are wearing on these residents.

‘It’s not right’: Swanson Homes residents still without heat and hot water

“Who lives like that? Who wants to live like that? But at the end of the day, when it comes to paying rent, we still have to pay that on time,” said another resident, Vernon Trotter.

Brown told us repairs are in the works and parts for the hot water heaters should arrive Wednesday.

“Some won’t be fixed for the next couple of days, and two, the temperatures have dropped and I want to make sure people are comfortable,” Brown told WAVY.com.

Residents pressed the city council for answers about the situation Tuesday night. Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas says it should not have taken nearly three weeks for residents to been given an alternative housing option.

“It’s outrageous, which is why I keep calling for the termination of the board,” says Psimas, who has asked the council to fire the seven-member PRHA board due to a loss in confidence.

Psimas did not make a motion to fire the PRHA board Tuesday because she says it was clear there was not majority support.

10 On Your Side obtained an email written by City Manager Lydia Pettis-Patton sent to members of council. In the letter, she says PRHA had a deadline of 5 p.m. last Friday, but the agency failed to “provide a plan to address the health and living conditions.”

An email sent by Portsmouth City Manager
An email sent by Portsmouth City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton.

 

WAVY.com asked Brown about that, too: “I can prove that I did send a plan. The plan was hand delivered by staff, and it was sent via email.”

Donnell Brown sent 10 On Your Side a scanned copy of an email, which does have a time stamp of 4:39 p.m. Friday — 21 minutes before the deadline.

“We have responded. We have done everything physically possible to make sure the hot water got back on.”

Residents pressed the city council for answers about the situation Tuesday night. Vice Mayor Elizabeth Psimas says it should not have taken nearly three weeks for residents to been given an alternative housing option.

“It’s outrageous, which is why I keep calling for the termination of the board,” says Psimas, who has asked the council to fire the seven-member PRHA board due to a loss in confidence.

Psimas did not make a motion to fire the PRHA board Tuesday because she says it was clear there would not be majority support.