Corporate Abuse Of The Disabled

This story brings home the vast difference between Republican, conservative,  business values and Democratic, liberal, human values.  It is also an indicator of how we, as a society in the United States, have allowed the pursuit of greater and greater economic growth and consumption influence our ethical and moral value systems at the expense of a loss of the the values of a spirit of friendship, neighborly cooperation and mutual effort at surviving and thriving on this continent, that our forebears pursued.

In a story this week by Corina Knoll, the Los Angeles Times is reporting about a landlord/tenant issue that has been simmering since late August concerning the disabled tenants at the Regency Court apartments, in Monrovia, California, who are being evicted:

Lily Hixon flung open her kitchen cupboards with pride. “Look,” she said, doing a Vanna White impression as she gestured to boxes of cereal and crackers. “I like everything organized.”

The one-bedroom Monrovia apartment decked out in Ikea has been Hixon’s introduction to independent living, a privilege the 25-year-old born with Down syndrome still can’t believe is hers. Built on an old rail yard, Regency Court Apartments is a quiet, mini-neighborhood of sage-green apartments and bungalows where Hixon greets neighbors with a wave.

But last month, she and about 20 other physically or developmentally disabled tenants, some of whom have lived in the affordable housing complex for more than a decade, were notified that their leases were being terminated.

The apartment complex opened in 1995 as a supposed “seniors only” facility, however, it seems that much of the time since then, the property owners and their property managers have advertised for and accepted disabled tenants.  As reported in the LATimes story, the complex accepts Section 8 housing assistance vouchers.  It seems that many of the disabled tenants are developmentally disabled, but have been educated and nurtured, and developed to the point that they are capable of living independent, productive lives:

Located among a row of houses in a quiet neighborhood, Regency Court is close to bus lines, within walking distance of jobs that people with disabilities might land and accepts Section 8 housing vouchers. It seemed a perfect fit for people who want to live on their own but are susceptible to predators.

Parents of the disabled say part of the complex’s allure is the symbiotic relationship between the senior and disabled communities where both move a little slower than the outside world and neither presents a threat.

“If we’d sat down years ago and tried to dream up this package, we wouldn’t have gotten it half as good as this,” said Hixon’s father, Ken. “That’s part of the parents’ anguish right now — that now we’re back to zero. How do we replicate this?”

Senior citizens and disabled Americans, good neighbors, living side by side, in peace and harmony and to mutual benefit, is what American values are about, as example an incident that occurred at the apartment complex last year, as described in an article in the Monrovia Weekly:

Integrating the elderly and the developmentally disabled in low income housing communities is an emerging trend throughout the country. Senior citizens are often apart from their families and enjoy the company of their younger disabled neighbors. The developmentally disabled benefit from the stability and watchful eyes of their elderly neighbors.

It can be a life saving relationship.   Last year a power surge created by a transformer explosion at Regency Court caused a fire in the apartment of one of the elderly residents. Matt Fosbury, a developmentally disabled tenant, quickly extinguished the fire, while his wife, Laura, comforted their distraught older neighbor.

This issue is not a case of the property owner enforcing some legal requirement to exclude non-senior citizens, it is a matter of fair housing abuse of disabled Americans.  One can only surmise as to the property owner’s motivation, the Regency Court is owned by Star Holdings of Illinois, LLC and managed by their subsidiary Professional Property Management, Inc. of Rockford, Illinois, and neither party is speaking as to why, now, after all these years, they want to throw these people out of their homes.  On their web site Star Holdings claims:

As a leader in the development, management and construction of affordable housing properties, Star-Holdings is committed to providing superior affordable housing solutions to communities nationwide.

So it would seem that Star Holdings is targeting a segment of the population that may not be as economically advantaged as the median American family, which on the face of it, would seem admirable, however, their strategy and tactics might also be legitimately categorized as predatory.  Economically disadvantaged individuals have historically been prime targets for manipulation and abuse by venal business interests.  Perhaps Star Holdings believes they can extract more revenue out of senior citizens who may have a consistent (although fixed) income, as opposed to what they view as “transitory”, less reliable, younger tenants.  Or perhaps it is simply a form of discrimination against a segment of their tenants by their property managers?

Professional Property Management, Inc. seems to be developing a reputation of contempt for their tenants, as a search of the Internet will turn up examples of a preponderance of negative opinions of this company by the tenants they administer.  They are likely not a single anomaly among the panoply of large American businesses, but they seem to be emblematic of how our country is losing its soul, how the pursuit of achieving any economic goal trumps treating our fellow human beings with decency, fairness and kindness.

One can only hope that the light that is being shed on the situation at the Regency Court may open some eyes, with the local authorities in Monrovia, California, applicable federal authorities, and the management and owners of Star Holdings, who’s contact information, in case anyone would like to send them a message, is: 973 Featherstone Road, Suite 325, Rockford, Illinois 61107; 815.397.9018.

Updated: 18-Sep-2009

At a press appearance staged at Regency Court today governor Arnold Swarzenegger, announced that he had intervened and reached agreement with the owners to allow the disabled tenants to remain in their apartments.   This is great positive PR for the “governator” and perhaps his wife had something to do with it, since Schwazenegger is the son-in-law of the late Eunice Shriver, founder and patron of the United States Special Olympics.  Irregardless of the PR aspect for the governor, this was the right thing to do, and those business managers and owners who have adopted values that solely focus on enriching themselves with no regard to their social responsibilities should take heed.

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