INDIANAPOLIS — A group of fair housing advocates met Sunday to discuss the housing crisis in Indianapolis.
The troubled Lakeside Pointe Apartments on the north side of the Indianapolis was the driving force behind the conversation.
Claire Holba's nonprofit Patchwork Indy has been advocating to improve conditions for tenants at the complex.
"What we have seen at Lakeside Pointe, which has been the heart of where our work has been out of, has been deplorable conditions," said Holba. "Conditions such as sewage seeping out of the ceiling above where a young mother had been trying to bathe her infant child; conditions where mold is prevalent. Conditions where doors don't lock and fires are rampant."
Sunday she and other fair housing advocates gathered at Second Presbyterian Church on North Meridian Street to discuss the housing crisis happening across the city.
"This network and web of shell companies and entities that are operating multiple affordable housing complexes around the city, while saying they are doing good deeds such as providing financial literacy classes and English language classes. Really, what this is, is a way to get tax breaks," said Holba.
The church sits just a few short miles from Lakeside Pointe and offers support to tenants living there.
"If you are a person trying to manage health care, child care, housing on a low income or minimum wage position, it is simply not possible to do all of those things and advocate for yourself when your landlord is not meeting their obligations," said Christopher Henry, the senior pastor of Second Presbyterian Church.
Dee Ross with the Ross Foundation also works with tenants experiencing problems with landlords. He was a victim of one himself. He said Indianapolis has some of the poorest tenant protection laws in the country.
"What's happening at Lakeside has been happening in Black and Brown communities for a long time and it's been neglected," said Ross.
To protect themselves, advocates recommend tenants learn their lease. Or find an organization that can help you understand it. Know your rights as a tenant under the law and consider joining a tenant union. Finally, don't back down.
"There's a great network of organizations that are fighting in this battle at the grassroots level, the state level, and at the city level. Just connect. It must be a numbers game," said Holba.
It's a game they plan to win.