A look inside Durham public housing amid failing federal scores

Joel Brown Image
ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
EMBED <>More Videos

A look inside Durham public housing amid failing federal scores

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's a five-minute two mile drive from Durham's Cornwallis Road housing complex to its headline-grabbing sister property McDougald Terrace. But the dismal state of the two complexes is even closer that.

Federal inspection scores are just as bad at Cornwallis as they are at McDougald -- even worse at other properties. And, resident frustration is at a fever pitch.

"I just wish there was something they could do for us as a city. I understand that you look down on us, but we're still human beings," said 29-year old Tikoya Christopher, a Cornwallis resident.

McDougald Terrace residents flood Durham City Council amid carbon monoxide crisis

Christopher's three-bedroom unit has two windows still marked with bullet holes from neighborhood gunfire. She said there has been no response to her requests for replacements.

She said she and her three small children have submitted numerous complaints to DHA staff about everything from the leaks and subsequent floods to heating vents dislodged from the floor.

"My one-year old child picks (the vent) up himself," she said showing the precarious two-foot deep hole in the floor beneath the vent. "Like this shouldn't be happening."

Christopher said she rushed her 10-year old daughter Nya to the hospital after their kitchen light suddenly fell and shattered on the girl's head. "I was upstairs, all I heard was boom! And she started screaming."

RELATED: How to help families forced to leave McDougald Terrace amid carbon monoxide scare

And on the other side of the kitchen - the cinderblock wall is not keeping the outside outside anymore. Christopher pointed out the breaks in the wall where weeds have been poking through.

Now this Durham mother said Nya has been suffering from frequent headaches. She blames the mold in her daughter's bedroom. A problem she says DHA literally painted over.

"You can't see it because they painted over (the mold). It's all in the bathroom. It's above our doors," Christopher said.

Federal inspection reports show DHA public housing is the worst in the state. Units are scored from zero to 100 -- anything below 60 is failing. Cornwallis Road scored a 31.

It's the same dismal score McDougald Terrace received. But the carbon monoxide concerns there forced DHA and the city into crisis mode.

Dozens of McDougald residents have been evacuated and are sleeping in hotels as carbon monoxide response teams conducted new testing at their homes all day Tuesday.

Durham attorney Nana Asante-Smith is helping to organize a grassroots effort to support and empower the displaced residents.

"Being displaced for these residents has been a re-traumatization," said Asante-Smith. "We're just here as mobilizers and community members to wrap our arms around each other -- particularly the McDougald Terrace community."

Earlier Tuesday, Durham mayor Steve Schewel sat down one-on-one with ABC 11's Morgan Norwood and addressed the short-term solutions at McDougald along with the long-term fixes to Durham public housing.

In the meantime, the community-led effort to help the displaced families from McDougald is looking for the public's help. A Google form has been created for interested volunteers.

Alternatively, you may call Resident Services at 919-683-8596 or 919-271-0554 to request a volunteer assignment.