They had been cited with lease violations at their HUD-subsidized housing for minor repairs and upkeep charges, some as minor as a $10 mini-blind, and charged $3 for light bulbs.
Trivial as the charges sound, they added up to penalties, small claims court, families being evicted, and potentially more low-income mothers and their children being left homeless.
"We never knew each other before that," Hairston resident Starlyn Nelson said last week. "I stayed in my house. I kept my children in my house."
That changed. Beginning with a petition drive and then a series of court hearings in November, the tenants, most of them single mothers, began using LaTonya Stimpson`s kitchen off Marsh Street as an office. There, they wrote meeting agendas and drafted fliers. Weekly, they have walked picket lines, ventured into Shiloh on the occasional Sunday, phoned any public official who might help — with little success.
Thursday, coupled with a notice in their mailboxes that property management firm Westminster Co. will inspect apartments this week, a price list showed how repairs added up:
The charge for a maintenance call is $15 hourly during normal business hours. Added to the labor is parts: $18 for a toilet seat, for example, $6 for a stove burner drip pan, $8 for a toothbrush holder.
Tenants said other items, though they include labor, were unreasonably high: $8 for a key, $6 for a smoke alarm battery, all to be paid within 30 days, subject to penalty or eviction.
"They`re making money off us," argued Nelson, a mother of four. "People say `Just move.` I`m not working, and I`ve been on a waiting list for Section 8 since ▄."
Site managers at Hairston have referred questions to Westminster Regional Property Manager Ron Cagno, who did not return phone messages.
At Hairston, one of four HUD-subsidized complexes in Greensboro that the national company manages, Nelson lives rent-free in a four-bedroom, one-bath apartment a