INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- On the night of Jan. 21, Gidget Carter told CBS4 she was on the verge of becoming homeless because the management at the Laurelwood Apartment Complex on Indianapolis’ south side misplaced her paperwork, denied her qualified participation in a rent subsidy program and told her she owed the Indianapolis Housing Agency more than $3,000.
“I was facing eviction,” said Carter.
But between a church donation and a CBS4 investigation, not only is Gidget secure again in her apartment, her debt has been paid, there’s a credit on her account and she’s hopeful better days are coming for her 22,000 neighbors in Marion County public housing.
“I’m thankful for you and I’m thankful for you listening to me and telling my story because had you not stepped in and got behind me I don’t think it would have turned out this way,” she said.
While our investigation was underway, Gidget was able to secure a donation of $1,037 from The Creek, a local church, to pay one-third of the debt IHA claimed she owed for back rent dating to Nov. 1 of last year.
In the meantime, another $1,000 was added to Carter’s total Feb. 1, raising her outstanding debt to $4,094.50.
Last month, Carter was served with a letter from Laurelwood Manager Natalie Grayson warning her of a pending, “Termination of Dwelling Lease,” that indicated eviction proceedings were to begin.
“She claimed that it wasn’t an eviction notice even though that’s what it stated on that paper as everyone could see,” said Carter of the letter that carried a date of 2018.
The misdated letter was simply the most recent in a long history of lost, misapplied and backdated documents and entries in Carter’s file, as proven by a CBS4 investigation.
When confronted about the file, IHA personnel either explained that despite the warning letter, Carter wasn’t really facing eviction, or that the case was, “in process.”
After our story aired on Monday, two days later IHA posted the check from the church to Carter’s account and began applying enough credits to reduce her outstanding balance to below zero while recertifying her to participate in the agency’s rent subsidy program.
Carter credits the CBS4 investigation with lighting a fire under IHA management to solve the dilemma of its own making.
“I honestly believe that once you aired that story on the news (Grayson) was already in the hot seat, she just wouldn’t back down because she thought she was facing one lonely tenant with nobody to back her and once she saw that I had back up, I think that you guys scared her and she was forced to make it right because it was never right in the first place. She was falsely evicting me for paperwork that was always there and so once you guys put a foot on her neck I think she was forced to do the right thing.”
IHA did not respond for a comment on Carter’s file.
Word of Carter’s success in standing up to IHA came as Mayor Joe Hogsett said he eagerly anticipates the arrival of the man he has chosen to become the agency’s next executive director, John E. Hall, director of public housing in Wichita, Kansas.
“He has a history of really two decades of taking challenged housing agencies and transforming them back into vibrant vital community partners and institutions,” said Hogsett as he reflected on the task Hall faces in taking over IHA amidst federal government scrutiny, warnings and a finding of non-compliance on financial issues at the troubled agency which has experienced rising crime, slumping occupancy and overdue repairs. “Obviously we had blunt talk but here’s an important point: he is so thoughtful of a leader he had already done an enormous amount of research about Indianapolis, this history of the Indianapolis Housing Agency and some of the challenges that it has faced over the last few years, so I really didn’t have to bring him up to speed. It was a conversation that he was fully engaged in as the interview began.”
Hall told CBS4 he has followed our investigation into IHA operations and practices since last November.
“Better days are ahead,” said Hogsett, “and we want to provide quality affordable housing for all people in the city of Indianapolis. IHA has a role in that regard and that with the new leadership of John Hall I think we will be well on our way to addressing some the concerns that the residents expressed.”
Neighbors like Gidget Carter who said they have waged lonely frustrating battles with IHA for fair treatment and safe housing in Indianapolis are encouraged by the mayor’s promise.
“That means that they’re taking notice, that somebody is paying attention to us,” she said. “I’m just glad that we have been heard because it's hard to live in public housing and to have to ask for assistance and when you’re stepped on and trampled on it makes you feel that much worse so for them to be taking notice of us and be offering us a solution I think that means a lot to us.”