200 South DeKalb tenants are days away from complex-wide evictions

One tenant of the Forest at Columbia Apartments stands to protest at the complex entrance (DorMiya Vance/WABE)

Two hundred residents at a South DeKalb County apartment complex have only 19 days to find new places to stay after the residents claim that their leases have been unexpectedly terminated.

Residents of the Forest at Columbia apartments in Decatur have gained the attention of county officials as they face eviction. They formed a tenant association to stop forced evictions and get help to find new places to live.

Sydney Clark and her mother have stayed at the public housing complex for about ten years. She says that having somewhere to live is essential. “People cannot live dignified lives without safe and affordable housing,” she said.

The tenants say their new landlord, Meridian Management, told them they have until August 31st to leave the complex for renovations.

DeKalb county commissioner Larry Johnson represents district three, where the complex is located. He told residents last week that the county is going to step in.

“I gotta get the tenants some help. My goal is to get you some help, so you won’t be outside,” he said to residents.

Johnson says there’s some money set aside for rental assistance. Residents, though, still wonder how they will afford to move even with the county’s help before the end of the month.

Pearly Stinson is also a resident at the complex. She says that the issue she’s run into is the need to pay three times the rent for a new place to stay. “I feel horrible …I worked all this time to retire and now to be homeless. It’s very frustrating,” she said.

Some residents say they have already felt the pressure of the new owners. Hananiah Day has been without utilities for a few days now.

“I could use, you know, several negative adjectives to describe how I feel. I don’t really have answers,” Day said.

The new tenants association has made demands for the new owners and the county. They include reinstated leases and temporary relocation while the renovations take place.

Meanwhile, the county will hold a meeting on August 15th at the complex to offer the 200 residents available community services and housing referrals.

The property owner Meridian Management did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.