Eureka Gardens tenants say they're again facing eviction
Threats come as owner under scrutiny from federal government
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tenants said they have once again been threatened with eviction at Eureka Gardens, the troubled apartment complex that has been the focus of an eight-month I-TEAM investigation into unsanitary living conditions.
The eviction threats come one day after Sen. Marco Rubio announced he's formally called for four federal investigations into the complex's owner, the Global Ministries Foundation.
City Councilman Garrett Dennis, whose district includes Eureka Gardens, told the I-TEAM that he's been on the phone constantly since Tuesday with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, after tenants said they're being threatened with eviction -- one for simply asking for a new refrigerator and another for talking to the I-TEAM.
Dennis also said the mayor of Riviera Beach in south Florida called him Wednesday, asking for help and advice on a troubled GMF property there.
Eureka Gardens Tenant Association president Tracy Grant said the pressure might be mounting on GMF after Rubio sent four letters around Washington, D.C., asking for federal investigations from the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, HUD and a Senate committee less than two weeks after he visited the property.
“My skin just crawls. He went further than what he said (he would do),” Grant said of Rubio.
Eureka Gardens is up for sale, as are all of the Rev. Richard Hamlet's Jacksonville properties and five more across three states. All are said to be in deplorable condition.
Grant said she hopes the federal investigations force change.
“We don’t hate you,” she said of Hamlet, who founded GMF. “It says it in the Bible. Do unto others like you would have them do unto you. If you don’t want to live out here in mess, then don’t leave us to live in mess.”
Single mother Johnisha Bryant has experienced that mess firsthand.
Playing with her 2-year-old son, TJ, outside their home at Eureka Gardens, the stairs outside their door still have visible Band-Aid fixes.
Bryant showed the I-TEAM patchwork repairs over a leak in the bathroom and the mold she fears is making her children sick.
“Every time I take my youngest son to the doctor, he has an ear infection, a cold. He’s always sick,” Bryant said. “His nose is always running. I can’t get rid of it. That’s why he wants me to get a mold test, a lead test, a mildew test.”
Bryant lives a few doors down from another home the I-TEAM visited last month, where a grandmother showed us mold covering the bathroom.
Her neighbors said she was evicted from her daughter's home after management saw her in our news report talking about the mold.
Property management refused to comment Wednesday about those claims, but GMF officials said they adamantly dispute the account. They said the woman's name was not on the lease, which is against HUD guidelines, and that she was kicked out after a fight with her daughter and not evicted.
They said the only evictions they are pursuing are against residents who are not paying their rent.
“They don’t need to intimidate people,” Grant said.
As for the federal investigations Rubio had requested into GMF’s business practices and finances, GMF officials said: “We abide by and take seriously our commitment to the law and to IRS regulations. We have always been, and will continue to be, 100 percent transparent.”
Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.