Trying to find normal | Local News

SOUTH HAVEN — Federally subsidized food commodities are slated to return this week to residents of South Haven’s River Terrace Apartments.

That they didn’t arrive last week is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding South Haven’s public housing system. The problems have angered and puzzled residents.

“It’s like one thing on top of another,” River Terrace resident Becky Kenny said. “But the commodities, that’s what broke the camel’s back.”

She said two people tried to deliver commodities Monday but they were told by staff to leave, Kenny said.

“People still have no commodities,” she told the Housing Commission meeting last week.

Housing commissioners said the food will return this week.

Kenny and some 25 other apartment residents voiced their frustrations to South Haven housing commissioners. Residents had questions regarding the recent departure of Housing Commission Executive Director Chuck Fullar and several other employees.

There has been a variety of issues regarding the Housing Commission, which oversees two federally subsidized apartment complexes in South Haven – River Terrace and Harbor View – and the Warren Senior Center and about two dozen family houses.

According to Housing Commission meeting minutes, events began unfolding about five months ago when the commission began receiving letters – some signed, some unsigned – expressing concerns about the way employees were being treated, maintenance problems, and fairness in choosing applicants for apartments and houses.

Housing commissioners began addressing the issues, and by July, two senior office staff members left as did Fullar, who had been with the Housing Commission for 18 years.

One of the office members retired, while Fullar and the other staff reached separation agreements.

The controversies have taken their toll on housing commissioners, as well. Longtime commission Chairman Eugene Ladewski resigned in July. Vice Chair Teresa Mahone-Jordan took his place, but she resigned earlier this month, leading to a new Chairwoman, Letitia Wilkins, who led Wednesday’s meeting.

Residents have been attending Housing Commission meetings for the past several months, asking why there is upheaval in staffing. Wilkins, like other members, remained mum on providing details.

In a written statement Wilkins provided to the press, she stated, “Chuck was considering retiring on Oct. 31. During the course of the discussion regarding his retirement, it was agreed he would retire sooner. Chuck retired from the Housing Commission on July 28. The Housing Commission appreciates Chuck’s work and dedication during his tenure.”

The Housing Commission isn’t offering details on staff resignations, but the panel is making changes.

Elizabeth Stevens has been hired as an interim director. Jobs have been posted for the executive director’s position and for a full-time office assistant.

Housing commissioners are reviewing personnel policies, staffing needs and whether the agency’s organizational direction is aligned with its mission.

But although Housing Commission members won’t go into detail about the resignations, they did have answers regarding the missing food commodities.

Mahone told residents at Wednesday’s meeting that a former employee who had quit was trying to distribute the commodities, and that’s why she and the person she was with were told to leave.

“They knew from the beginning if you’re told not to come back – the relationship was terminated – why come back?” Mahone said. “(She) could not sign for the commodities. She wasn’t supposed to distribute them.” 

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