I’m disabled and staff and some residents at my housing complex constantly threaten, harass, and damage mine and other people’s property contributing to a serious suicide epidemic for vulnerable tenants. What are my rights and how do I get someone to finally take us seriously?
I live in a mixed-income housing complex that is made up of retirees, working families, and a lot of people that are impoverished and have a wide range of serious disabilities (primarily mental illness) and are receiving subsidized housing provided by various programs similar to Section 8. Each rental unit is independently owned and operated with different rules for tenants and then the complex itself has it's own set of rules and receives maintenance fees from the actual owners.
The people that run the complex have a very long history of abusing and harassing people and there have been so many suicides it's created an epidemic unlike anything I've ever heard of before even in a state with a high suicide rate (Hawaii). This includes the "security guards" – complex employees – not an outside agency, all of the staff including office and maintenance workers, and also the board. The president of the board is known for subtle intimidation and threats and also outright property damage including slashing tires, throwing paint thinner on cars, breaking tenants windows, and telling people he cannot be sued because of the way he's set up his estate.
Security routinely looks into the windows of unsuspecting residents and even catcalling women that they've caught undressed. We have jalousie style windows and most people keep their windows cracked or open due to the tropical Hawaii weather and the fact that it is too expensive for most residents to regularly run air conditioning window units. This has been going on for at least a decade as there are private web pages that describe this behavior at this complex since at least 2006.
The woman running the front office is married to the maintenance supervisor and they both have a long history of methamphetamine drug abuse, although I do not know if it is current, and the husband spent time in jail for robbery in the past. There are tenants that are robbed and stolen from often and although fingers are always pointed at him and police reports are filed nothing has ever been done. Workers keep very, very close track of who is coming and going and what their routines are and it's difficult to gather proof with anything happening on this property. Most residents are living far under the poverty level and usually don't know what their rights are or are unable to exercise them, cannot afford a lawyer, and often don't have the means to move. Many end up dying by suicide as these people already have severe illnesses and socio-economic problems and are living in an environment that is downright horrific.
Some landlords are better than others but many are slumlords not following fair housing laws. The housing and case management agencies many tenants have will make notes of problems but either do not care or do not know what to do even though their clients are killing themselves one after another, year after year. The variety of agencies assigned to tenants complicates these problems as there is likely little or no communication between them. Many residents have filed police reports over the years for criminal activity (theft/robbery/harassment/drug use/etc) but it is difficult to gather proof and so nothing has ever been done.
For myself, I have serious physical, mental, and developmental disabilities. I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Major Depression w/ suicidal ideation and attempts that is unresponsive to medication and therapy, PTSD, anxiety, etc. I also have chronic and systemic physical problems caused by a genetic disorder that among other things causes my joints to dislocate, heart/circulatory problems, digestive issues, and too many more to list.
I have case management for mental/behavioral health and a housing agency that subsidizes my rent and meets with me in my home once a month or more. I have notified both on a regular basis as to the type of abuse happening to me (and others) and have provided proof (audio recordings, video clips, photos, etc) on several occasions over the last several years. Nothing is done. Ever. They are aware of chronic suicides happening as well since these are sometimes their own clients and it's talked about by the tenants. Recently, the complex posted suicide awareness posters throughout the property which is awful since they're the ones causing the problems.
I have been threatened repeatedly in various ways. One example is that the board president kept telling me how many sex offenders live here (I was sexually abused as a minor by an authority figure and am vulnerable due to so many disabilities and isolation) and then a few days later in the middle of the night one of my bedroom jalousie windows was shattered. I had a motion alarm that went off. The glass shattered and a few pieces landed on the inside sill but the rest of the glass was swept up from the ground. The next morning I had a notice that I had ten days to fix it before I would be fined $10/day. I made rounds several times at all hours of the day and night over the next few days to check the outside of my apartment and my vehicle and took photos and video so I could have proof the next time they damaged something. A few days later my living room window screen was sliced through. I submitted photos/video that showed what that window looked like the previous days and the day it was done and submitted in writing the threats I was told, the details about my jalousie window, and the screen. My case manager and housing worker received this. They are supposed to be advocating for me and helping me resolve situations like this. They do nothing.
Now my car has a huge slur written through the dust on the back windshield, I've had subtle but intentional objects meant to convey a message left in front of my door several times in the last week or two. The board president made it clear to me several times that there's nothing anybody can do to stop him when it comes to so many problems here and that he cannot be sued and it would be stupid to try to do so. I can't afford a lawyer, anyway.
I've had multiple instances of people looking in my windows, I've seen them do it to others as well. I am not allowed to have a dog and when I have asked my landlord (multiple times over the years) for the right to have an emotional support animal and provided documentation by multiple physicians on official letterhead I was told no. I recorded a conversation at one point when they told me no but by law I am actually allowed to have one. They had also told me at one point that I could not have a service animal either, "even if you end up in a wheelchair and need it to help you complete tasks". Well, it's likely that I will need a wheelchair at some point. I walk with a cane now but do not use it on property anymore because I'm scared for my physical safety and want to keep my hands free. Hawaii Disability Rights Org told me they're breaking the law but there's nothing I can do because they'll just evict me for another reason and it will be hard to fight.
I did not get a dog all those years. I also live very isolated and have no friends or family support and no career or involvement in my community because my disabilities are so extensive I am often unable to walk or function very well.
However, I am scared for my safety living here. I do not have the ability to move elsewhere. It is just not possible at all. I struggle with suicide all the time and have a family and personal history of suicide and severe mental illness. I am regularly threatened and harassed but it is subtle. I used to sit outside all the time and just sit with the stray cats on the property. I did this for years at all hours of the day or night, not bothering anyone, just sitting quietly because I love animals and I need some sort of comfort and can't get an emotional support animal even though it is my legal right.
Not long after my windows/screen were damaged I was sitting outside late at night where I always do and was petting a cat. I was about 20 feet in front of my front door. I was silent and not bothering anyone. Security came and told me I needed to go inside because I am loitering and it won't be tolerated. This was the first time they said this to me after years of me doing exactly this same thing. The next night I did it again but moved to the opposite end of the property and they came and told me I can't loiter again.
Shortly after that, I found an abandoned and very sick puppy abandoned in a parking lot and I brought it home, snuck it inside, nursed it back to health, and kept it. I'm not allowed to have it here.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to keep a dog from barking occasionally. When someone is too close to my window he lets off one warning bark. Other than that he is silent and happy and although stuck inside he knows nearly 30 commands, is being trained for retrieving, picking up, carrying, and moving items for me, is trained to lie on top of me when I start getting upset so I can calm down, is fully house trained, and we're working on other tasks that I will need help with at some point. Due to the one warning bark he gives off when people are so close to my windows/door (not the neighbor or anything else) they know he is here. They haven't said anything but they've been coming around a lot more and will jingle their keys a few feet from the window or sit there and whisper stuff and they'll bang on the stairwell and things like that trying to get him to bark. This is all new behavior for them and only since I got the dog a few months ago.
I know I will be evicted and will not be eligible for subsidized housing through the same company sometime in the near future. But I am scared for my safety, scared for my sanity and that of others on the property, and the people and agencies that are supposed to be advocating for me (and others) are not doing anything at all.
Is there anything I can do to protect myself? I don't know where else to turn and the harassment is escalating and people are dying and I'm worried I will be next. My doctors are also aware of all of this and have also told me the landlord and complex are breaking the law. But I can't move even though I want to and hate it here. Nobody does anything and none of our voices are being heard.
TL;DR: I live in an apartment complex where myself and many other residents are constantly abused and threatened. Over the years there have been numerous police reports filed, tenants have repeatedly notified their housing agencies that pay their subsidized rent and are responsible for meeting with the tenant in their home and advocating for them and they fail to do anything, tenants with mental health case management services have notified their case workers repeatedly over the years and they aren't advocating for their clients or helping them, some residents have created web pages detailing the abuse and/or have posted in various places online asking for help and they use their real name/apartment number and state what is happening and ask for help, I (and others) have called agencies like Hawaii Disability Rights Org for help and they acknowledge illegal things but won't help, and a lot of people have ended up killing themselves from being subjected to constant harassment and abuse. I've been worried for my physical safety and am not getting help. What can we do to get people to help us?
A separate issue for me is I am breaking the rules with the puppy I rescued and am risking being evicted. Do I have any rights at all with this matter? It's important to me but I would not have kept him if I did not feel concerned for my safety. I've been asking for help and notifying those that are supposed to be advocating for me for years now.