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Tulsa Elected Officials Ask For Help Getting Residents Out Of 'Third-World' Conditions At Apartments

The plight of more than 100 families at a south Tulsa apartment complex has caught the attention of local elected officials.

Vista Shadow Mountain got on the city’s radar over an unpaid water bill of more than $108,000. The entire complex could be shut down Thursday over the bill, which management has not paid while collecting utility fees from residents.

City Councilor Lori Decter Wright visited the complex near 61st and Memorial over the weekend and said the problem is much bigger: Her constituents living there are experiencing third-world conditions.

"I see structural damage. I see black mold. These are not things that are fixed with a coat of paint," Decter Wright said.

Decter Wright and state Rep. Melissa Provenzano also saw units with no walls, floors or ceilings; apartments that couldn't be locked, allowing squatters inside; and water leaking out of electrical fixtures.

Decter Wright said despite the conditions, many remaining residents don’t have the means to leave or think things will turn out OK.

"One lady's been here 20 years, and she felt like the property owners were taking care of her by relocating her within the complex. But they relocated her to a unit that still has the black mold that's making her sick," Decter Wright said.

Provenzano said it’s the kind of situation that makes her advocate for renters’ rights, but nothing can be done at the capitol with session adjourned for the year.

"Once you started talking to the residents here, and the sense of hopelessness on, 'Well, what can we even do? What do we have the rights to do?' And what I saw just broke my heart," Provenzano said.

Decter Wright, Provenzano and nonprofit Housing Solutions Tulsa are trying to help remaining residents move out and are asking for suitcases and duffle bags, moving supplies and volunteers to help move people. People who can help are asked to email dist7@tulsacouncil.org and put "VSM Volunteer Assistance" in the subject line.

There will be an assistance event for Vista Shadow Mountain residents Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Volunteers of America Oklahoma, 9605 E 61st St. Any residents needing free rental assistance, help with applications for new housing, moving cost assistance, hotel night stays or other aid are welcome. A shuttle service will be available for those needing transportation to and from 61st and Memorial.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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