(Note: The following was sent in an email to Management at Memphis Code Enforcement as well as to City Councilman Worth Morgan and members of Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration. We eagerly await a response.)
Good Afternoon, Mr Dandridge,
My name is Brad Watkins and I am the Executive Director of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. For the past year we have been involved with the residents at the Warren Apartments and now with Serenity Towers.
We have been a long time advocate in the issues of blight, homelessness and the issues of quality affordable and accessible housing in Memphis.
We are encouraged by decisive action we have seen from HUD but also have a great many concerns about the relocation of residents from Warren and Tulane in addition to Foote Homes, We will also be reaching out to the Administration and others about those concerns and our research about best practices from other cities in similar situations.
However, I wanted to reach out to you, moving forward on our thoughts as to how Code can utilize it’s, what we agree are underfunded and stretched thin resources in this time when the city is looking to further reduce spending.
The following link is the City of Memphis RESERVE HOUSING AND CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS amendment to the code of ordinances.
With the proper outreach, this tool could be used to promote greater accountability and give code extra eyes and ears within these properties.
What we are proposing is a partnership on two initiatives both using SERENITY TOWERS as a pilot program between MSPJC and CODE ENFORCEMENT.
1.This would entail the recruitment and training of tenant leaders in into building viable and HUD recognized Tenants Associations in all HUD subsidized Elderly and Multi-Family units in the City of Memphis. MSPJC would perform the initial outreach and contact with residents and provide our training in the skills of grassroots organizing with Code engaging the membership of these new organizations to recruit and train small teams of tenants as Reserve Code Officers under the current city ordinance.
From our view this would not only increase Code’s on the ground capacity in these troubled units but also build the capacity of the tenants themselves with the means to self advocate on their own behalf.
2. At Serenity and other Senior living HUD subsidized properties, MSPJC is currently in conversations with a local institution of higher learning to pursue a potential partnership where college interns trained by MSPJC and trained as RCO by CODE with required service hours would be able to perform these hours by being paired up with residents at Serenity who have mobility or physical disabilities. the students would check in on the residents regularly, as many have serious and multiple health issues. Students would also aid residents in keeping their rooms clean to avoid housekeeping evictions and aid residents in preparing their rooms to be sprayed for inspections. This also focuses on the fostering and building relationships between the tenants and the students which has an abstract but genuine quality of life benefit for the residents and aids management and residents in improving conditions for all.
We also feel that this option is a reasonable accommodation to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for the quality of life of these residents.
In addition as these students would be trained in how to file complaints via a CODE Liaison, this would aid in preventing retaliations against residents as it would be witnessed by a recognized third party.
We feel that by using the case of Serenity Towers as a pilot, we can build a model for implementation for all of our Senior Living and Multi Family units in Memphis in a manner that builds both CODE and the communities capacity and is as revenue neutral as possible during these financially lean times.
We’d like to speak to you about both of these matters, when your schedule allows. Please do not hesitate to contact us at anytime about this matter.