Eureka Gardens owner fires back at councilman

Owner incensed by threats to deny vouchers for crime-plagued complex

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The leader of the Tennessee ministry that owns a Westside Jacksonville apartment complex plagued by crime fired back Friday at a Jacksonville city councilman who's threatened to submit a proposal that would take away low-income-housing vouchers from the Eureka Gardens apartments.

Rev. Richard Hamlet of Global Ministries Foundation called News4Jax to say he wants the city to know his ministry is committed to improving the quality of life for Eureka Gardens residents.

Most of those residents utilize housing vouchers from the federal government, and Hamlet said he is not happy about what he called a threat to his tenants' ability to live there.

Jacksonville City Councilman Warren Jones said last week that he's so fed up with the crime problems at Eureka Gardens that he was considering asking HUD to deny housing vouchers for the complex unless it improved security.

"To have this kind of thing where suggesting that this property is going to be given to vouchers. We have legal contracts with HUD. HUD is monitoring this as a private sponsor," Hamlet said. "We report to HUD, and this city councilman has crossed the line here in dealing with private contracts."

Hamlet said the foundation has already spent millions to improve security in the nearly two years the ministry has owned Eureka Gardens. He was incensed by Jones' comments.

"They, in fact, were in favor of us buying these properties less than two years ago and doing incredible work in the last two years that is going apparently unacknowledged," Hamlet said. "Because of political agendas, sadly, as the good guys here, we're being used as some scapegoat. And I will not tolerate it."

Jones said by phone from Orlando that crime has not gone down in Eureka Gardens and unless fences and security are put in, he'll likely push HUD to suspend the project-based vouchers for that community.

"I did commit that I would take a tour of the facility before I do anything and at least talk to the owner," Jones said. "I'm just not convinced that we have come up with a solid, long-lasting way to curb or reduce the violent and property crime that occurs in that area."

Jones admitted the council has no authority to remove vouchers. It can can only request the feds do it, but he thinks it's needed. He considered a similar proposal a few years ago when the complex was under previous management, but he saw enough of a reduction in crime to pull back.

He hasn't seen that this time, he said.

"I haven't seen anything that has convinced me that they've made any concrete efforts to reduce the violent and property crime in that area," Jones said.

Jones said he has a meeting scheduled with apartment managers next week. Then he will make his final decision on whether to pursue legislation. 

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