The difficult times are taking their toll at the plaza. The Santa Fe Plaza apartments on Third and Putnam.

Residents at the apartments, which are largely for the low income and elderly, said the maintenance and cleaning needs of the facility — and much of the security needs as well — have been virtually unmet for months.

The Tulare County Housing Authority oversees the apartments. Tulare County Housing Authority Executive Director Ken Kugler admitted it’s been a challenge for the organization to meet the maintenance needs of the facility.

When asked about staffing to maintain its facilities Kugler said the organization has “very limited staff.”

But residents at Santa Fe said no notice was given to them about any cutbacks to maintenance staff at the facility and they say there’s no staff at the facility for maintenance and cleaning.

Kugler said emergency repairs are made at Santa Fe two days a week. But residents said there are issues such as carpeting which is loose. That’s a safety issue that could cause many elderly at the facility to fall and hurt themselves.

Residents say the elevators in the building don’t always work. They say residents have been stuck in the elevators and it’s difficult for them to ask for help if they don’t have a cell phone. “To get a hold of anybody you have to scream or yell or bang on the walls,” one resident said.

There’s also a hole in the ceiling on the third floor caused by the rainfall that happened in April that still hasn’t been fixed as of Thursday. Debris that has fallen from the damaged area caused by the leak is on the floor beneath.

Kugler admitted the Santa Fe building is old and water leaks can happen from time to time in an old building.

Kugler said another issue affecting the Santa Fe building is the authority’s Porterville office has had to be closed because their was a positive COVID-19 case at the office. He said all the protocol has been taken to reopen the office and the office should open on Monday.

He said when that office is reopened that should help the situation at Santa Fe considerably. Kugler also said the authority is committed to “trying to keep” all of its residents “safe and healthy.”

There are residents at the facility who say they’ve been tested for COVID-19 and have tested negative. They say they’re unaware of any COVID-19 cases at the complex.

And residents at the facility said their calls to the authority have gone unanswered. Most of the residents who spoke to the Recorder did so anonymously because they’ve been told not to complain. “We’re threatened with eviction if we complain,” one resident said. 

But one resident, Lilly Esquivel, was willing to provide her name. “We call that number and nobody answers,” said Esquivel about the number she said has been provided to them to seek help.

Some of the residents say they plan to leave the facility but add many residents are low income and have no choice but to stay.

“I want to get out,” one resident said. 

“I’m moving from here and I’m never coming back when I get out of here,” another resident said.

The residents admit there are residents who don’t pick up after themselves like they should but it’s still no excuse for the disrepair the facility has fallen into.

When that leak happened one resident in her 80s was told to bring a trash can from the first floor up to the third floor to place it under the leak. “It was heavy,” said the resident about the trash can.

Residents also say there’s a huge problem with cockroaches and bed bugs in the facility. Doors lined with powder to combat the cockroaches and bed bugs can be seen throughout the facility.

“We’ve got cockroaches running wild,” said one resident. “The cockroaches are terrible,” another resident added.

A lack of security has also been an issue, residents say. There have been break-ins and one elderly woman was assaulted, they say.

Esquivel’s son, Vincent, and his daughter, Chelsea, were at the complex on Thursday to clean Esquivel’s apartment for her and Vincent also expressed his concern.

“I’m helping my out out,” Vincent said. “We wanted to get this done.”

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