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Columbus officials, local nonprofit struggling to house displaced Colonial Village residents

The sign for Colonial Village Apartments on East Livingston Avenue
George Shillcock
/
WOSU
Hundreds of residents of Colonial Village Apartments are being forced to move out due to unsafe living conditions.

Updated February, 13, 2024 at 10:44 a.m.

Community Shelter Board, the nonprofit Columbus officials are working with to help relocate residents of the condemned Colonial Village Apartment complex, is struggling to find permanent housing for the families that once lived there.

Community Shelter Board CEO Shannon Isom told WOSU that since all residents were forced to move out of the troubled apartments by the city at the end of December, they've only been able to help 32 find housing. Right now, those residents are spread between about several hotels and motels.

The number of people the city estimated to be living in Colonial Village also greatly exceeded expectations. The city initially thought just over 800 people were living there. Isom said her organization is helping a total of 1,300 people who lived there.

Columbus City Council voted Monday night to give the nonprofit an additional $3 million in grant funds to house these residents until the end of March. Isom said the $3 million will largely be used by the Community Shelter Board to aid their Herculean effort to keep all remaining residents temporarily housed in what Isom calls "crisis relocation."

"These dollars very specifically are going to be used, plain and simple, to pay for hotels and motels," Isom said.

Community Shelter Board said there around over 400 residents of the complex being housed temporarily in hotels and motels.

The city initially gave the Community Shelter Board $600,000 in grant funds, but the rest of the money was allocated and ready in case the nonprofit needed it.

"As we've moved through the process, as we've looked at our own burn rate, certainly with a number of community members now much larger than what we thought we would happen, we thought it would be in our best interest, Community Shelter Board's best interest, the city's best interest and certainly for these particular community members, to ask for the rest of that (money)," Isom said.

Isom said her organization and the city are struggling to find housing for all the residents before that deadline. She compared the situation to that of the Latitude 525 apartment complex, where over 400 residents were forced to relocate.

The number of people at Colonial Village was triple the size of Latitude 525 and the population carries with it a unique set of challenges compared to the two 15-story towers.

Isom said the city and her organization found well over 500 households and those households consisted of three-to-four households living in a single apartment sometimes with whole families taking up a single bedroom or living room. She said some people were living in their cars or in other spaces on the property.

Isom said many of the Colonial Village residents appeared to have been trafficked from Haiti and therefore don't have legal status in the United States.

"Moving into a contract, moving into trying to solve, resolve has found itself difficult. We are, and hoping that the more and more, alignment of service and social service agencies that are aligned with this particular community will do just that," Isom said.

Isom said there are also triple the amount of children that lived in Colonial Village compared to Latitude 525.

"It's a crisis," Isom said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.