Versie Williams has lived at the Dahlia Square Senior Apartments in Northeast Park Hill for about seven years. She’s lived in the neighborhood since 1962, and when the affordable housing complex for those 62 and older opened where the Dahlia Square Shopping Center used to be, she knew she wanted to live there to be close to her mother.
The advertised features of the building appeased Williams as well. She said the apartments came with central air, a microwave, a dishwasher and garbage disposal.
But as of late, Williams and residents at the apartment complex said they’ve been let down by management and the “advertised features” have become nothing but lipstick on a pig. Residents said they’ve voiced several concerns to the building’s management company, ComCap Management, regarding the safety and living conditions of the complex, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
“One time one of our gates was laying on the ground, we complained and it took them over three weeks to get that gate fixed,” Williams said. “We have always complained, but management just closes their ears. I hope and wish and pray that they will finally do something about this building because it was a nice place to live, and we want to get back to that.”
So on Monday, about 10 tenants, some with walkers, gathered outside the building’s entrance armed with signs that read “Security Guards Now!!” and “Fix Locks on Security Gates” and “Stop the Elder Abuse.” Tenants, with support from the East Denver Residents Council, held a protest asking ComCap to address their concerns and do so in a timely manner.
“We have to do this kind of activity and bring this kind of information to the public, just to get the management company to get on board and meet with us and talk about solutions,” said Chairman Sekú, a five-year resident and member of the Residents Council.
Donna Stewart, who has lived in the complex since it opened said, “I’ve been here 10 years. All of these concerns need to be addressed right away. We’re tired of waiting.”
The Residents Council is a registered neighborhood organization whose goal “is to provide support to seniors and working families who live in east Denver.” Council President LaMone Noles started off the conference, stating residents “were fed up with the lack of safety and security protection.”
“After reaching out to management for meeting requests with no response, the tenants are taking their issues to the streets,” Noles said.
Residents produced several letters dated in June and addressed to ComCap regarding their concerns and their demands. They asked for better security measures, including security guards, cameras and alarms on all entry doors. They said trespassers have entered the building to steal packages and sleep in the stairwell. Residents asked for better building maintenance including backup generators for the elevators, which periodically do not work, cleaner garbage areas, carpet cleanings and new ventilation systems. They also asked for more social programs, such as bingo and movie night, along with new equipment for the fitness and business center. Residents said none of those needs have been met.
Sekú said tenants have set up a GoFundMe account, so they can pay for the changes themselves. He added that residents want the city to investigate ComCap for “criminal abuse of elders.”
“We refuse to be quiet anymore,” Sekú said. “We refuse to live like that. If this is how you treat your elders, then the children are in trouble because they have to look forward to continued oppression and a lack of voice.”
ComCap’s president, Michael Lengen, and vice president of operations, Chris Vargas, said they weren’t aware that residents held a press conference Monday, though they did receive the letters of concern from residents.
Vargas said maintenance requests are usually handled within 24 to 48 hours, as long as residents put in a request. He added that some of the concerns could not be met, such as an armed security guard, due to budget restraints but the company is looking into a “courtesy patrol.”
As for the requested sit down meeting, Vargas said management deals with residents individually. Lengen added that group meetings aren’t productive and when residents have “specific concerns, we address them.”
“As far as we know, everything is working okay,” Vargas said.