HUD to require Eureka Gardens' new owner to develop security plan

HUD meets with residents to address safety concerns, pending sale of complex

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The new owner of Eureka Gardens will be required to develop a security plan for the troubled apartment complex, officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday night at a meeting with residents. 

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss recent events, including a mass shooting that left seven people injured, and provide an update on the physical condition of the complex and its pending sale.

As of Monday evening, five people injured in the shooting had been released from the hospital, one remained in critical condition and one was in serious condition.

After the Aug. 8 shooting, city leaders and national lawmakers demanded more be done to protect residents at the federally subsidized housing complex.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., shared a letter last week that she wrote to HUD Secretary Julian Castro requesting that the department immediately provide dedicated 24-hour security at both Eureka Gardens and Washington Heights, another Global Ministries Foundation-owned complex.

Pastor Mark L. Griffin, who owns Wayman Ministries across from the complex and is running for a state House seat, challenged GMF, the owner of Eureka Gardens, to hire 24-hour security for the apartment complex. He said roaming patrols are not enough.

GMF has found a buyer for its Jacksonville properties, including Eureka Gardens and Washington Heights, along with other properties it owns in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee that were put up for sale in May.

"We are going to be involved and understanding who the potential inquirer is who's buying this and make sure that they understand that we're going to have expectations in terms of living conditions and safety," Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said. 

The sale won't close until late September. HUD will review the purchaser before the sale is final and provide a list of critical and noncritical repairs to the buyer, which will be required to make the repairs.

"That is completely a process right now that's in the hands of the current owner. Once they get through their due diligence, they will come to us and they're going to have to go through out scrutiny. We'll have to meet our processing in regards to having the resources needed. They have to meet our requirements regarding the history and knowledge and, hopefully, I'm hopeful there will be an opportunity for a turnaround," HUD Administrator Ed Jennings.

With the pending sale of the property, Jennings said, a course of action for the security of the apartment complex has finally been mapped out.

"What we require the new owner to do is come back and identify a security consultant that can develop a security plan for this property. They're going to identify that person by Wednesday and then we're going to be working with them once they have that plan developed to see what to prioritize implementation of the plan," Jennings said. 

Though the plan is promising, Homeowners Association President Tracy Grant said she wants to hear that security will be provided 24/7. She said the residents deserve to feel safe.

"Prayerfully, something will come out of that. We just need, we just need a full-time security firm that's going to stay in Eureka," Grant said.

According to HUD, the new security plan could be rolled out within a month. 

In addition to the lack of security measures, Grants said, residents are also frustrated because mold is back, even though they were told it was contained. 

"Before the new owner can come in and buy the property, we want to make sure he, she or them have the resources to do that. They'll submit to us a schedule to show when that will happened and that is a humongous change," Jennings said. 

Residents said they hope the new owner is drastically different.

"I pray hard that they do listen. Personally, I want to meet them because I have to talk to them to have them understand the residents concerns. It's not a one time deal," Grant said. "We continuously have the same problems."

The current owner of the property, the mayor and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will meet this week to decide what kind of things they can do together to provide security for the short term.

GMF issued a statement addressing the safety concerns:

Our hearts go out to those who were injured by the brazen actions of the criminals who appeared during the night at Eureka and terrorized the families living there and in the surrounding community.  We are actively working closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to help identify those responsible and bring them to justice swiftly. Though we know of no Section 8 owner that has 24/7 armed guards, Eureka Gardens has targeted paid security and surveillance technology to cover the expansive multi-block, family-style community. To support the JSO and City leaders as they tackle the high rates of violent crime in the area, GMF significantly increased security measures as soon as we purchased the property. It is precisely this type of unlawful activity that has made the job of providing Jacksonville families with safe and affordable housing extremely difficult, as those in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day can attest.”

About the Authors: