At Franklin Towers, energy outage places highlight on tenant issues

Dave Caston Sr., 65, has lived at Franklin Towers for 13 years and considers himself an unofficial group watchman. He and one other resident acquire photographs of the issues on the 16-story public housing advanced. “My job’s not executed right here,” Caston says. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

The 4 ladies gathered for his or her Wednesday scat recreation on the spherical desk close to the foyer merchandising machines in Franklin Towers. They stored a card pile within the center and greenback payments on the prepared for the winner.

Three of them had not had full energy of their residences for greater than every week, for the reason that electrical system on the higher flooring failed throughout a thunderstorm. A few their retailers and home equipment had been restored, however they stated they nonetheless couldn’t use their stoves or air conditioners. The Portland Housing Authority, which owns Franklin Towers and different public housing within the metropolis, has stated the restore won’t be accomplished till the center of this week.

The ladies have all lived right here for greater than a decade. (At 20 years, Beverly Collins has the group’s longest tenure.)

The ability outage has put Franklin Towers within the highlight now, and so they figured some would chalk it as much as age. However they know residents have been making an attempt for years to deliver consideration to the constructing’s many points, which proper now embrace bugs, just one working elevator for 200 residences, random leaks and soiled hallways.

From high clockwise, Patty Cote, Sue Leathers, Beverly Collins and Gail Leighton play a card recreation collectively in a standard house at Franklin Towers on Wednesday. The group of buddies, who’ve recognized one another for extra a decade, play scat on Wednesdays and a board recreation collectively on Thursdays. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

“Individuals are all the time saying, it’s so previous, it’s so previous,” stated Collins, 83.

“Nevertheless it actually isn’t,” stated Sue Leathers, 63.

“It actually isn’t,” stated Collins.

The 16-story excessive rise is, in actual fact, simply over half a century previous. It’s dwelling to 210 low-income aged and disabled folks, lots of whom look out for each other however say they really feel forgotten each by town round them and the company that oversees the constructing. 

“We really feel like we don’t matter,” stated Samantha Hashey, who moved in six years in the past.

Cheryl Classes, govt director of the Portland Housing Authority, stated the company is planning a $35 million renovation and is doing every thing it could possibly to maintain up such a big property with restricted federal assets and a scarcity of workers.

Samantha Hashey in her condo on the second ground at Franklin Towers on Thursday. Hashey has lived within the constructing for six years and stated it has been irritating to see how little care has gone into sustaining it. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

“It’s definitely not being uncared for,” Classes stated of the advanced. “It’s not a state of affairs the place we simply don’t go to Franklin Towers. It’s only a matter of getting a workforce and having a chance to essentially go in and do a significant rehab.”

Classes couldn’t say precisely when that venture may start. She needs to use to place the constructing on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations as a big instance of city renewal and early public housing. (“You’ll get a chuckle out of architects if you inform them that Franklin Towers might be on the Nationwide Register,” she stated.) Getting that designation may permit the housing authority to finance a renovation with historic preservation tax credit along with different federal assist. However the company nonetheless must submit all these functions and agency up plans, together with the place residents would go whereas their residences are gutted.

Within the meantime, nevertheless, Classes stated the constructing is in good situation and the workers is aware of complaints.

The U.S. Division of Housing and City Growth, which funds and regulates public housing, has inspected Franklin Towers thrice since 2018. The Portland Housing Authority offered the scores from these inspections, however stated it couldn’t share the detailed stories Friday as a result of giant sections would must be redacted to guard residents’ privateness. Officers stated a rating of 60 or increased is taken into account passing. In all three inspections, Franklin Towers scored within the 70s, excessive sufficient to move however low sufficient to require an inspection yearly as a substitute of each two or three years.

The newest rating from August, simply weeks earlier than {the electrical} failure, famous “non-life threatening well being and security deficiencies.” When requested for extra details about these deficiencies, Portland Housing Authority officers didn’t clarify all of them, however stated in an e mail Friday afternoon that some factors had been taken off for exterior masonry defects that will be addressed through the future rehab and for the constructing’s inoperable second elevator. (The constructing has two, however the housing authority has been updating them, so just one has been working at any given time since April. That venture received’t be executed till the tip of October. The housing authority has appealed the factors taken off for the elevator as a result of it has been down so it may be changed, not due to a malfunction.)

“It’s a superb, rugged constructing,” stated Classes. “There are some drained methods that we wish to improve.”

Beverly Collins, 83, holds Bella, the canine she pet-sits, throughout her common Wednesday card recreation final week. A 20-year resident at Franklin Towers, she acknowledges the problem of a single elevator: “Individuals’s tempers are getting unhealthy.” Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer


Hashey, 40, stated she has been listening to concerning the potential renovation for years. She used to work in nursing and is now disabled due to medical points, and she or he was glad to discover a place that she may afford on her restricted revenue that will additionally settle for her pet boa constrictor. She adorned her condo with private mementos and hung a hen feeder exterior her window.

Quickly she seen leaks in widespread areas and realized about bug infestations in different models. She started to really feel involved concerning the air high quality and the grainy mud she cleans commonly from her cabinets. She heard about potential drug dealing and noticed folks coming into the constructing who don’t reside there. Now the sensation of serenity she has labored so arduous to create inside her condo evaporates when she walks out her door.

“The power if you’re on this constructing, you are feeling such as you weigh a ton,” Hashey stated.

She discovered an ally throughout the corridor in Dave Caston Sr. They’ve teamed as much as acquire photographs of constructing issues – cigarette butts left on the ground, window sills blocked with rags to forestall rain from coming inside, puddles on the flooring – and to jot down to public officers. Final week, they stood of their respective doorways buying and selling complaints and speaking about residents who’ve been evicted. Once they turned to return inside their residences, they parted like household.

“I like you,” Hashey known as after Caston.

Neighbors Dave Caston Sr. and Samantha Hashey have turn out to be buddies and look out for one another, in addition to different residents at Franklin Towers, documenting a number of the points with the growing old constructing, akin to leaks in widespread areas. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

Caston has lived within the constructing for 13 years and considers himself an unofficial group watchman. Inside his condo, he retains a folder thick with copies of complaints about different residents’ suspected felony exercise and newspaper clippings associated to the constructing. The folder accommodates a letter from his physician, who has talked with Caston about how his issues with Franklin Towers have negatively impacted his bodily and psychological well being. Considered one of his handwritten notes from February 2020 says: “All of us deserve higher.”

Caston, 65, labored for years as a disc jockey at weddings and events, and the folder additionally consists of the flyers for the Saturday karaoke nights he hosts within the constructing’s first-floor widespread room. On considered one of them, he wrote, “Group all the time comes first.” He stated the variety of younger folks at Franklin Towers has been rising, and has introduced extra security issues, substance use and felony exercise, and he needs solely senior residents lived there. Franklin Towers is open to anybody who’s aged or disabled, and about half the residents are youthful than 62.

Regardless of his complaints, Caston stated, he declined when supplied an opportunity earlier this yr to maneuver to a newly renovated unit at one other Portland Housing Authority advanced.

“My physician’s workplace is right here and the shop is right here and now we have karaoke right here,” he stated. “I’ve been right here for 13 years. My job’s not executed right here.”

Seen at nightfall, Franklin Towers was constructed simply over half a century in the past and is dwelling to 210 older and disabled residents in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer


The shop is the Franklin Mini Mart. Proprietor Ami DeRienzo retains the cabinets stocked with all of the fundamentals: dish cleaning soap and bathroom paper, brownie combine and cereal, milk and ice cream. On Friday, she introduced in pans of home made pasta, considering of the residents who couldn’t prepare dinner for themselves with their energy out. DeRienzo greeted a buyer with a quiet smile and rang up his can of Pringles.

“It’s an actual robust sense of group,” DeRienzo stated. “They discover when somebody wouldn’t come down for his or her espresso. They give the impression of being out for one another.”

Franklin Mini Mart proprietor Ami DiRienzo behind the counter of her retailer on Friday. DiRienzo has owned the shop for 3 years and has owned the shop inside 100 State Avenue, a constructing for low-income seniors, for 5 years. The shop is open most days from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. after which DiRienzo heads over to State Avenue. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

Collins, from the cardboard recreation, sat at a desk exterior the shop and sang praises for DeRienzo’s pasta. She moved into an condo on Franklin Towers’ high ground after she retired from her profession as a nurse and social employee, and she or he likes to observe the ships in Portland Harbor from her window. She takes care of Bella, a bit black canine whose proprietor lives within the constructing. Together with her buddies, she performs scat on Wednesdays and the board recreation Gotcha! on Thursdays. She stated she misses the times when the constructing had a tenant council that deliberate outings and occasions, however that group hasn’t been lively in years.

“I prefer it nonetheless,” Collins stated. “Nevertheless it’s not prefer it was.”

She is sympathetic to the Portland Housing Authority workers who need to take care of the constructing’s crises. (“The workers is working their little buns off,” she stated.) However she additionally hears the sharp phrases exchanged when, for instance, too many individuals attempt to crowd into the one functioning elevator.

Bonnie Smith buys stuffed shells that Franklin Mini Mart proprietor Ami DiRienzo makes on Friday. The shop is extremely necessary for the older residents of the constructing who could not have a automotive or are in a position to get themselves to a grocery retailer. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

She usually has to attend for the elevator for a while, she stated, till there’s room for her to get on.

“In the present day it was 5 elevators for me to get on and go dwelling after lunch,” Collins stated. “Individuals’s tempers are getting unhealthy.”

Sameerah Kadhim, not less than, was in a superb temper when she noticed Collins within the widespread room. The 2 ladies shared a hug. Kadhim, 70, moved into an condo on the ninth ground in 2014. Her favourite factor about Franklin Towers is its location: near a bus cease, her courses at Portland Grownup Schooling, the oceanfront path the place she walks along with her buddies.

She stated she likes dwelling within the constructing and feels her personal ground is secure and clear, however not all are.

“The constructing doesn’t have lots of people for cleansing, for trash,” Kadhim stated. “Not sufficient.”

Sameerah Kadhim, 70, has lived in a ninth-floor condo since 2014. She likes dwelling at Franklin Towers and appreciates its central location, near a bus cease, her courses at Portland Grownup Schooling and the oceanfront path the place she walks with buddies. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer


The Portland Housing Authority stated the routine upkeep within the constructing features a weekly go to from a pest management service to examine for bugs and deal with any infested models. Classes stated staying on high of the bugs may be tough in a big constructing with many tenants, particularly when some persons are too embarrassed to complain or don’t wish to let strangers inside their residences. However residents continuously talked about infestations of bedbugs and cockroaches, and not less than two displayed pink bites throughout their legs and arms.

What seemed to be bug bites lined the ft, legs, arms and again of 1 resident, who didn’t want to be recognized. The resident thought they had been from bedbugs, however hadn’t proven them to a health care provider. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

Sue Leathers stated she had to surrender most of her furnishings, together with a brand new double recliner, to place a cease to a current infestation. She thought the housing authority would return or exchange these gadgets, however she has waited for weeks and it hasn’t.

“I’ve been promised and lied to and promised and lied to,” Leathers stated.

Brendan Walsh has heard about bedbugs, however up to now he isn’t too involved. He moved into an condo on the eighth ground only one week earlier than the facility went out. He was dwelling in a West Finish studio when he lastly bought off the housing authority waitlist after greater than two years.

“It’s not cute,” he stated of his new condo, however it’s reasonably priced. His earlier lease was greater than 60 p.c of the $1,163 he receives each month from Social Safety. In public housing, tenants like Walsh pay 30 p.c of their revenue towards lease. The common month-to-month value in Franklin Towers is $383.

Franklin Towers residents load into the one functioning elevator on the 16-story condo constructing on Wednesday. The Portland Housing Authority says it’s planning a $35 million renovation because it tries to maintain up with upkeep with restricted assets. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

Walsh moved his document assortment and his cat, Kagero, to Franklin Towers. He has lived in lots of locations together with shelters, and he described his one-bedroom within the advanced as “the cake.”

Regardless of the continuing outage and the puddle from a ceiling leak he discovered exterior his condo the opposite day, he stated he likes the constructing up to now.

“There’s this sense of individuals taking good care of one another,” Walsh, 44, stated. “Individuals bringing meals by one another, folks looking.”

Walsh stated he’s stunned by the variety of neighbors he has met in simply three weeks. One was Bonnie Smith, 67, who lives on the eleventh ground along with her roommate, Charles Blake, 79. Smith caught a journey with a good friend to Hannaford at some point this week to get provides for rooster salad sandwiches, and Blake greeted her from his rocking chair in entrance of the TV when she returned. Their fridge was operating once more on their restricted energy provide, however she was nonetheless not allowed to make use of the air conditioner her physician stated she wants.

Brendan Walsh in his condo at Franklin Towers on Thursday. Walsh moved onto the eighth ground a few week earlier than the facility outage occurred. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

This expertise has solely exacerbated Smith’s feeling that the senior residents of Franklin Towers have been deserted.

“We don’t exist anymore,” she stated.

She was not the one individual feeling hopeless.

Down the corridor from Walsh is Anna Hernandez. She raised her children in Kennedy Park, one other Portland Housing Authority property, and has lived in Franklin Towers for six years. Her daughter and granddaughter had been staying along with her this week as a result of they bought evicted from their most up-to-date condo in Kennedy Park. Hernandez needs them to have the ability to keep along with her till they’ll discover a new condo, however she isn’t certain the housing authority will permit it.

She as soon as dreamed about shopping for a house collectively and leaving Franklin Towers, however she cried as she talked about their unsure future.

“That’s the way it’s all the time been for me and my children,” stated Hernandez, 59. “We’re all the time combating.”

Anna Hernandez cries as she talks about the potential for her daughter and granddaughter having to go away her condo and be on the road. Hernandez spoke to somebody from Portland Housing Authority that afternoon who instructed her that her daughter and granddaughter may keep for seven days however then needed to depart. Brianna Soukup/Employees Photographer

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