Nonprofit helps displaced seniors whose apartments were flooded after pipes burst

CHARLOTTE — Crisis Assistance Ministry said in late January that it will help more than 80 senior citizens displaced from their homes after a Christmas Day flood inside west Charlotte’s Magnolia Senior Apartments.

The nonprofit said it is working with other groups to pay for the residents to stay in a hotel through February.

“We don’t need to let this crisis that happened to them on Christmas Day continue to traumatize them,” said Carol Hardison, CEO of Crisis Assistance Ministry. “We need them to know the community is stepping up and they will continue to be secure in their housing.”

Officials with the city of Charlotte announced earlier in January they would also help.

Residents were first told they would have to wait a few weeks to move back in after the pipes burst, causing flooding on Christmas. But residents found out they will have to wait nine more months.

The city of Charlotte has committed funds for them to stay through the end of January in addition to the help from the ministry.

A letter from Mosaic Development Group, the nonprofit property owner, told displaced residents repairs will take much longer than anyone hoped.

“The estimate of time to reconstruct the affected units could be as long as nine months,” said Bill Bolstad, executive director at Mosaic Development Group.

Residents were also informed that after Jan. 13, Mosaic Development Group will no longer pay for hotel rooms residents were relocated to.

“We learned last week that our insurance company is not going to pay for any relocation for the residents at Magnolia,” Bolstad said.

Bolstad said his organization reached out to the city to ask for help because they were running out of funding for the displaced residents.

“We’ve been kicking over every rock, knocking on every door, trying to see what resource we can find in the community to help people,” Bolstad said Tuesday. “First by trying to extend their hotel stays and second, looking long term about how we can them find other housing options.”

Elected officials celebrated Magnolia’s grand opening in April 2019 as an affordable housing option for senior citizens on fixed incomes.

“The public officials, everybody was there,” resident Valerie Price said Tuesday. “And (there is) nobody around now. We’re on own. We’ve been left alone.”

Residents meet with developer

Following complaints about the lack of communication, officials from Mosaic Development Group held a meeting with frustrated Magnolia residents Wednesday evening.

“It’s aggravating,” resident Katrina Peterson said. “We’re upset about it, and we’re just unhappy.”

“I was hoping to find out when we can get back in our apartments,” resident Deborah Pegues said. “My apartment wasn’t damaged that much when I left.”

Residents also said they have yet to go back to their homes and get their belongings still inside their units at Magnolia.

“I know everybody here wants their things, but I’m leaving here not knowing what to do,” Pegues said.

Bolstad was there to field questions.

“The building has been in a state where it is not safe to go back into,” Bolstad said. “So, we have been trying to work through how we get people back in. In a way that’s safe.”

Despite Charlotte paying for the displaced residents’ hotel stay, Bolstad knows the end of the month is not far away.

“And that worries us greatly,” Bolstad said. “Our No. 1 concern all along is how do we make sure everyone impacted by this is going to have a good roof over their head?”

Other nonprofits have stepped up to help.

“We have been over here passing out food every day, coats, hats, gloves, personal needs that they may need,” said Janette Kinard, with Be You Be Great. “(We are) collecting money so they can make sure they get their medicine, giving them a ride wherever they need to go.”

Charlotte’s Housing and Neighborhood Services has gathered groups, including The Red Cross, United Way, Crisis Assistance and Mecklenburg County to address the residents’ needs.

Those groups plan to reconvene with Mosaic Development no later than Tuesday to begin identifying how they’re going to assist the residents with specific resources.

Bolstad said in Mosaic Development Group’s 60-year history, nothing like this has happened to a property.

“I will say, just for the record, that everything to our knowledge was built to code, followed all the rules and regulations,” he said. “We kept up with regular maintenance.”

‘Everything in my apartment is gone’

“I heard something that sounded like horses, and then I turned around and saw nothing but water rushing into the bedroom,” resident Ardsley Massey said in late December.

Massey and many of her neighbors are being housed in hotels, facing the prospect that nothing in their units is salvageable.

“The fireman referred to my apartment as ground zero,” Massey said. “Everything in my apartment is gone. There was about six inches of water in there.”

“I stand to lose most of my possessions,” resident Valerie Price said. “And since I don’t have renters’ insurance, that concerns me.”

The residents are wondering if previous maintenance issues at the complex on Beatties Ford Road culminated in the Christmas Day disaster.

“It seemed that things weren’t being taken care of as they happened, maintenance issues,” Massey said.

The property management company wrote in an email that it appears one or more water lines that supply the sprinkler system froze during last weekend’s Arctic blast, then broke as they began to thaw.

They don’t know how long repairs will take.

“They have no idea what amount of time that’s going to take,” Price said.

“I want to get past this immediate situation and then begin to look into long-term, outstanding issues,” said Malcolm Graham, Charlotte city councilman.

Magnolia is in his district and he has been in contact with the property manager since residents were evacuated.

“I want to make sure the response from the management to the seniors is appropriate and timely,” Graham said at the end of December.

“It’s been troublesome,” Massey said. “We’ve had a problem with communication. First of all, there’s no communication.”

After Channel 9′s initial story on the incident, residents received a letter from Excel Property Management to let them know:

  • Hotel rooms for displaced residents have been extended through Jan. 14.
  • No rent will be collected while residents are out of their homes.
  • Management is looking to see what resources they can provide, regardless of whether someone had renter’s insurance.

“As you know, this winter storm not only impacted this community but a wide variety of water outages across Charlotte,” Graham said. “And we can’t be responsible for what happened, but we can be responsible for how we respond.”

The property manager said the fire marshal ordered the evacuation of the building since the incident was linked to the fire safety system.

They won’t allow residents back in until repairs are made and there are no mold issues.

In the meantime, arrangements are being made with residents to come back in small groups to get essential medications and medical equipment.

Property management is also offering ways for residents to get out of their contracts.

(WATCH BELOW: Displaced residents from flooded senior apartments hope to move back in soon)

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.