NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The city provided them with a home to live in, but it was deemed too dangerous – and now they’re struggling to get help.
On Friday, CBS2 introduced you to a family who was relocated into a dangerous apartment with no heat, lights, or running water by the Department of Homeless Services.
Since then, CBS2 discovered six different families with very similar stories. Parents who thought their dreams came true when the city offered to pay their rent. Those dreams quickly crumbled when the families were sent out of New York and city agencies stopped responding.
Monday night, the man in charge of DHS was apologizing for the scandal, but also placed blame on the landlords who took the families in.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable what happened to them and I apologize on behalf of the city of New York to them,” DHS commissioner Steven Banks said Monday.
Shakira Jones also took part in the DHS special one-time assistance program. She saw CBS2’s report about the New York family placed in an East Orange horror house and it hit very close to home.
Jones was also moved out of a city shelter and into a house in New Jersey – this one in Newark and also a tenant’s nightmare.
“When I moved here almost immediately things started falling apart,” Jones told CBS2’s Tara Jakeway.
The door to her kids’ bedroom fell off on day two, so the working mother of three reached out to the landlord and got nowhere. Jones and her working partner had to make do, then the winter hit.
“Once it became cold outside, my lights started shutting off, the heat would go off. I was in here for days with no electricity,” the 26-year-old explained.
“Did anyone from the city inspect this house before they moved in there?” CBS2’s Ali Bauman asked commissioner Banks Monday night.
“The way this program originally conceived of was to give the families the choice to move and to select their own apartments.”
Most families told CBS2 that’s not what they wanted – instead they felt pressured to move out of state.
Jones claimed her landlord was taking power illegally and the apartment itself was illegal. DHS had placed the family of five in an attic of a home not zoned to be an apartment. She said she had no choice.
“If you’re in the shelter, they force you to take the first program available to you. They don’t give you many options.”
So they have lived with exposed outlets, broken heaters and windows, and not a word from New York City since their relocation.
The city of Newark has spoken up, the fire department ordered an inspection and ultimately deemed the unit “uninhabitable” on Jan. 29.
“We really went through it, the true blue and honest way. No short cuts, no corners, so we really feel defeated and tricked,” Jarvis Careton said.
Commissioner banks then blamed many of the issues in the run-down homes on the landlords and said his agency would learn from the incident.
“We’re gonna make sure this family and any other families you’ve identified we can make sure they’ll get the proper help that they should’ve gotten to begin with,” Banks claimed.
“Your reporting has helped us make the kind of changes we think will make it possible for families to continue taking advantage of the program, but to not have a family taken advantage of a by landlord like this.”
All three families at the South 12th Street address are being placed into temporary housing until the situation is resolved.
CBS2’s Ali Bauman asked Banks why it took his agency six months to allow the Nicholson family – stranded in East Orange without heat or running water – to come back to a city shelter. The commissioner again blamed the landlord, and said his department is investigating.