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Mattresses, television sets, refrigerators, and household goods filled the sidewalks and parking spaces of the Blue Gables community Monday morning as residents where being forced to vacate after being notified 45 days ago that their property was being purchased by the City of Shelbyville.
Shelbyville City Attorney Steve Gregory said the city contracted with previous owner, Mark Stivers, and The Shelbyville Preservation Group, which is purchasing the property from the city, and provisions were set to ensure the tenants were properly relocated.
With children in their arms, several women stood outside crying, saying they had nowhere to go.
“We’ve been looking [for a new place] for forty-five days,” resident Kimberly Caswell said.
One resident said she drove her vehicle until the gauge was on empty searching for a new place to move.
“This is the worst day in the world today,” Caswell said. “We got kids that are homeless.”
Residents were supposed to have moved out by 9:00 a.m. but with several tenants sitting on their porches, unable to relocate on time, the eviction was extended to 1:00 p.m.
Many residents and community members stood outside and loudly vocalized their opinions, angry at the owners for not lining up a place for the residents to go.
“That man has been in this community all his life, and he [doesn’t] have [anywhere] to go,” neighbor Charles Richmond III said, pointing to a blind resident sitting on the corner.
“This is one of the richest counties in Kentucky, but yet they don’t have [any] housing [lined] up,” Richmond said. “There’s a whole lot of programs that Shelby County [does not] have that other cities have to take care of their community. They don’t have proper city transportation so these people can get out and find jobs and find places to live.”
Several residents said they have applied for other low-income housing, but the waiting list is extensive.
Caswell and another tenant said they applied last week at Cola Commons, but are still waiting for a response.
“Hopefully they’ll call us by today or we’ll be sleeping right here,” Caswell said, pointing down to the sidewalk.
With the rent at Cola Commons more than $100 higher than the $400 per month rent at Blue Gables, the women said they will have to move in together, bringing their four children in total to live in one apartment.
Even non-residents in the area had opinions on the situation.
“I’m from Chicago and usually when they put you out [of] low income housing, they usually put you somewhere else. Not just put you on the streets with your kids,” said Jack Williams, a friend who was helping Caswell move out of her apartment.
The current landlord, Mark Stivers relocated many residents to some of his other rental properties. However, after his properties were full some residents had been left out.
“Of about 30 people, only 10 have a place to go,” Caswell claimed.
However, Stivers said that information was incorrect.
“I’ve only got two that really haven’t moved yet,” Stivers said.
Stivers said no one is being tossed on the streets, and that he was doing all he could to help those left out until they could find a new place to live.
“I gave them phone numbers, I found apartments for them, [I did] everything,” Stivers said. “We’ve relocated just about everybody. The people that aren’t relocated are going to be staying in a hotel tonight. I’m still looking.”
An angered Richmond yelled out, blaming Stivers and Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty for not helping to relocate some of the residents properly.
Some housing available
While several former Blue Gables residents were calling foul, there are units and help to be found in the area.
Sherry Bogard, an employee at Sycamore Terrace Apartments, said she has not seen much of an outpour of tenants seeking new residency but did verify that at least one person from Blue Gables has contacted her office. But, she added, they were never heard from again once a unit was offered.
“You get what you give,” Bogard said, explaining that she believed if some were unable to establish a residency it was probably due to a lack of effort.
Sycamore Terrace offers Section 8 low-income assistance housing.
She also explained that some tenants might have had a difficult time finding a new residence if they had any issues with their background checks or application.
“We try very hard to make this a family community,” she said, noting that if a person had a previous eviction, a drug charge, was a sex offender or had issues with a previous landlord, they could be denied a unit.
Carolyn Waford at Indian Ridge Apartments, which also offers low-income Section 8 housing, said she was unaware of any Blue Gables residents seeking residency with Indian Ridge but said that the longest wait for a unit was around two to three months.