[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Southeast Florida informed residents of a diocese-owned affordable housing apartment building for seniors that it was making progress on repairs that forced all 177 residents out of the building and that the costs of their interim accommodations will be covered for at least another week.
St. Andrews Residence in West Palm Beach was vacated in mid-June when the city declared it uninhabitable after electrical malfunctions and reports of black mold damage at the 15-story waterfront building. Most residents have been staying in hotels while repairs are underway.
“We are working on a phased re-entry plan that we anticipate will begin in the next two to three weeks,” Southeast Florida Bishop Peter Eaton said in an Aug. 19 letter to residents. Because of the repair schedule, “some sections of the building may be habitable when others are not.”
Eaton, who serves as president of the St. Andrews board, said the repairs include replacement of the building’s electrical supply system, and air quality tests are underway to ensure the building is safe for residents to return. The building’s air circulation system also is being evaluated and the roof inspected. All units and common areas will be cleaned.
The diocese purchased the building in 2009 through a nonprofit it created to rent the units under a federal subsidized housing program for people over age 62. The property is managed for the diocese by SPM, an Alabama-based company. But St. Andrews has been plagued with problems in recent years, according to local news reports, culminating in a June 14 electrical malfunction that sent smoke into the building and knocked out power.
Previous communications to residents indicated that the St. Andrews board had approved money for temporary hotel stays and meals only through Aug. 21. Eaton, in his letter to residents, said the board extended that funding through Aug. 28 and “is working hard to continue to secure funds” to accommodate residents while they still are unable to return to their apartments.
Eaton added that he would provide residents with another update on Aug. 26.
“I would be remiss if I did not thank you for your continued patience,” he said. “Please know that your well-being and safety remain our top priorities.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.