Non-profit admits ‘appalling’ conditions at a low-income housing unit

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – An Albuquerque non-profit that’s received millions from taxpayers to help house the mentally ill and chronically homeless says conditions unearthed by KRQE News 13 at one of its apartment complexes are “appalling.”

“Totally unacceptable,” said NewLife Homes Executive Director John Bloomfield.

While the company claims it gives residents “safe, affordable, quality housing with support services,” a number of the units at the Broadway Apartments, located Downtown at Broadway and Coal, have serious problems NewLife now says it is addressing.

Resident Terry Quinn told KRQE News 13 he thought he’d found bedbugs last month. “All over the walls. Everywhere. On my bed. I couldn’t stop it,” Quinn said.

While city inspectors didn’t find bedbugs in Quinn’s apartment, they found them next door. NewLife has been ordered to remove the bedbugs and treat apartments on either side, which includes Quinn’s home.

But it’s the conditions in the other neighboring apartment that are truly alarming.

A man who is living with mental illness sat alone on a recent afternoon, staring out the window. The apartment reeked of urine and feces. In his bedroom, the soaked drywall next to his mattress had rotted away, and a bucket attached to a bedpan was spackled with feces. In his living room, floor tiles were missing, revealing a badly cracked foundation.

While a NewLife staffer told News 13 the company prided itself on direct contact with community members who have the greatest needs, she admitted no one had checked on the man recently. She didn’t know why the man’s daily visits from another social service non-profit hadn’t uncovered the problem.

Bloomfield said the man has been relocated to a motel while his apartment is repaired and cleaned. His ability to live on his own is being reassessed.

NewLife Homes has been recognized for its work rehabilitating dilapidated Route 66 motels such as the Sundowner and the Luna Lodge.

The company is in the process of building the latest phase of an affordable housing project in southwest Albuquerque and has a $1.8 million contract with the city of Albuquerque, provided it can find the funding to start another project called “Gateway 66.”

Since its founding in the early 1990s, NewLife has received tens of millions of dollars from an array of public-financing sources including the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, Bernalillo County and the city of Albuquerque.

Terry Quinn, who walked from neighbor to neighbor chronicling his view of their problems last week, said he doesn’t see evidence that NewLife cares as much about its most vulnerable residents as the company claims it does.

“The problem we’re having is they’re putting these people in here, slamming the door,” Quinn said. “But they want their rent money” regardless of whether they provide the support that’s needed. The former logger is on federal disability assistance and said most, if not all, of his neighbors are in a similar situation.

Four doors down from Quinn, Ray Valdez wheeled into the newly widened door to his bathroom. Recently homeless and confined to a wheelchair since he lost both legs at his hips, Valdez moved into an apartment that wasn’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

NewLife said Valdez agreed to the apartment. Since the complex has the required number of ADA-compliant units, all of which were occupied, it didn’t have to make accommodations. But Valdez’s kitchen sink isn’t attached properly to the cabinet below, and that cabinet tilted precariously away from the wall when Valdez pulled it to demonstrate the problem.

“If this tips, I’m done,” he said.

Bloomfield said the issue will be fixed and said it’s wrong that Valdez doesn’t have handrails in his bathroom.

In a few weeks, Valdez’s complaints and Quinn’s problems may be moot. NewLife is evicting both men, along with Quinn’s longtime girlfriend, for nonpayment of rent.

Bloomfield called Quinn “a disruptive influence at the complex” and said the company has been lenient with Quinn when he’s been late on payments before. But since Quinn has refused to pay for the apartment he considers infested (he also complained to News 13 of a number of incomplete or shoddy repairs,) Bloomfield said the company is done working with him.

Because of the public funding NewLife received, the Broadway Apartments get inspected yearly by both the federal government and a state agency. Last November, both gave the complex a passing grade. Both agencies told News 13 that inspectors are not required to see every unit. The state inspected a third of them at the Broadway Apartments, and clearly the passing grade did not reflect the conditions in the units seen by News 13.

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