NORTH BERGEN, N.J. (CBS 2) — A local housing authority is firing back at claims that it is “harassing a hero.”
The wife of a paralyzed veteran said an effort to evict them from their home is unfair, but housing officials say the wife is responsible for the trouble.
“Every day, it’s not an easy thing dealing with a paralyzed husband,” Page Vassallo told CBS 2 on Wednesday.
Vassallo is fighting eviction from a North Bergen building for seniors and the disabled. Her husband Sean, a Desert Storm veteran, was paralyzed and suffered brain trauma in a 2008 car accident.
The North Bergen Housing Authority said Vassallo is violating the lease by allowing Gary Danchise to spend the night frequently.
Vassallo said Danchise is a friend who helps care for her husband overnight.
“This person’s just here to help me,” she said. “They may stay a night or two if I’m having a hard night with my husband. I need the help.”
“There is much more to the situation than meets the eye,” Paul Swibinski, of the North Bergen Housing Authority, said.
Stung by criticism, the housing authority fired back Thursday, pointing out that Danchise has a criminal record. He served eight months in jail on a drug charge, and faced another drug charge two years ago.
“No, I’m not comfortable bringing a drug dealer in,” resident Grace Hensle said.
The authority also said residents have complained that Danchise seems to be living at the Vassallo’s home.
“Danchise visits the apartment and stays overnight frequently when Mr. Vassallo is in the hospital,” Swibinski said.
When asked about Danchise, Vassallo said she has known him for a long time, but was unaware of his criminal record. She didn’t have much to say Thursday as she left her home to visit her husband at a Bronx Veterans Affairs facility.
Mario Blanch is the Vassallo’s attorney.
“They’ve taken a paralyzed veteran, they’ve demonized his caretaker, they’ve demonized his wife,” Blanch said.
Blanch said the couple will fight to keep their heavily subsidized one-bedroom apartment.
For now, the North Bergen Housing Authority has decided to put the eviction proceedings on hold, pending further investigation – this time, also involving the North Bergen Police.
Page Vassallo said when he’s not in the hospital, her husband needs eight hours of care each day from a visiting Veterans Affairs nurse.