NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A New York City family thought the Department of Homeless Services was giving them a second chance – a home of their own and a promise of free rent for a year.
But the family says they were soon forgotten and their dream became a living nightmare.READ MORE: NYC Residents Told To Wear Masks In Indoor Public Settings, As Omicron Variant Confirmed In Canada
CBS2 first exposed this story on Thursday and now Tara Jakeway went to find the family help.
There was a show of solidarity in East Orange, New Jersey, on Friday afternoon. Mayor Ted Green was flanked by the chiefs of fire and police, along with a dozen other city officials who came out to support Kevin Nicholson and Sade Collington, a family placed in a home with no heat, lights, or running water.\
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The couple and two children were part of a program run by DHS in New York. The department dropped the family of four off in front of their “dream home” last summer.
“From the moment they dropped us off there, there were workers there that said you can’t stay here,” Nicholson said.
HOW TO HELP: Visit the family’s GoFundMe page.
DHS had secured the home through a landlord they paid with a voucher. According to East Orange officials, they did this without inspecting the property.
Local authorities deemed the property uninhabitable in November.READ MORE: Omicron Variant: 1st North American Case Detected In Ontario
“This company DHS, they actually circumvented the whole process of getting a certificate of habitability,” Mayor Green said. “Honestly I never even heard of that program. Never heard of it coming out of New York at all.”
That changed when Green saw Thursday’s report on CBS2.
“It probably was because of your story, honestly we wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have known,” he said.
East Orange’s head of property management did know about the DHS-run program after his department deemed 57 and 59 Ashland Avenue “uninhabitable” last year.
“The tenants told them the rent was paid for a year,” said Mark Barner, director of property maintenance. “That was something new to me because I’d never heard of that before and once we found that out we tried to reach out to DHS and we couldn’t get anywhere with them.”
Barner added that until they do return his calls he has no way of knowing just how many homes in their city DHS has used vouchers for.
Michael Leek was still living in the attached unit next to the Nicholson family. Like the Nicholsons, Leek has two children and was living within the terrible conditions provided to him by the same DHS program.
On Friday, there was a parade of officials slapping condemned stickers on both units. The city of East Orange is footing the bill for a room for the Leek family until the situation with DHS is resolved.MORE NEWS: Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Set To Start Monday In Manhattan
As for the elusive landlord, CBS2 was told he’ll be in court to face multiple summonses next week.