EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – For months, CBS2 has been reporting the “forgotten families.” They were moved out of New York City shelters and into another state, into what they were told would be a better place to live.
Instead, it was worse: Homes with no heat, no hot water and no working bathroom.
A New Jersey municipality has been issuing violations to landlords of the properties.
Today, one landlord faced not only a judge, but for the first time two families he rented to.
Kevin Nicholson and Sade Collington were placed into an East Orange home in June by the New York City Department of Homeless Services, or DHS.
The family with two young children soon found out there was no heat, no lights, and no running water. The home was condemned.
Wednesday, nine months later, they met the landlord Sean Young for the first time.
Young was in court to answer to a judge for multiple housing violations.
“He’s giving us the runaround. He ran once again. He told me a lie, he was going to speak with me after court, and he ran,” Nicholson said.
Under what’s called the Special One-Time Assistance Program – or SOTA – New York City will pay one year’s rent up front and in full to landlords, who in turn rent to eligible homeless families.
Lease records show Young’s received at least $40,000 from New York City to provide housing for Nicholson’s family and Michael Leake’s family, who was also in court.
Both families told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner their property was destroyed after East Orange deemed their apartments uninhabitable.
“So what do you have to say to them now that they’re here today?” Rozner asked Young.
Young told Rozner he apologized to both families and he was going to speak with them about new housing and reimbursement. That’s also what he told Leake last week, who he also ran away from again Wednesday.
“Michael is here to talk to you,” Rozner told Young.
“He never apologized to me,” Leake said.
“Sean Young, New York City, commissioner of DHS, they all did bad, and no one has reached out to my family and apologized,” Nicholson said.
Young told Rozner last week he took out permits to fix the home but was delayed by government red tape. Wednesday, the East Orange prosecutor said a new home he’s offered to Leake is habitable, rent paid up front, but the paperwork is still missing.
East Orange officials say another SOTA landlord Sean Richway, whose attorney was in court today, also was paid $21,000 through the SOTA program.
Joscelyn Rivera, a single mother of three, was moved to an apartment on North 18th Street with no working bathroom, no smoke detector, mold and leaky ceilings.
Young is due back in court April 24. His tenants say they’ll be there too.
East Orange officials say New York City’s independent watchdog, the Department of Investigation, had representatives in court today.
CBS2 reached out the Department of Homeless Services for comment.
No one got back to us.