The only thing holding up the hood to Sandra Ellis's oven is this metal pole:
Ellis and her family have been living in an apartment in Newark, New Jersey, for a year. They were placed there by the Department of Homeless Services, straight from shelter. They are originally from Brooklyn.
"What they did of forcing out here is unacceptable," Ellis said. "They just shoved us in here…like we never exist. I even emailed the lady about conditions and what was going on."
The apartment has some serious issues: the stove, the bathroom door
a bedroom door
a hole in the laundry room.
They are part of Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA). The city pays a whole year's rent up front in the hopes that families get stable housing. About 1,200 families have been sent to Newark.
A building code enforcement officer for the city of Newark who did not want to speak on camera told NY1 that he has inspected dozens of homes affiliated with the SOTA program. Each time, residents say landlords don't want to fix anything because they already have their money.
"Yes, Newark has housing problems, but we are fighting about that," Newark Assistant Corporation Counsel Gary Lipshutz said. "We don't want landlords to get a year's rent up front so the tenants have no recourse."
After Newark sued the city last week over the program, the city said it would temporarily stop sending families to Newark. Both Newark and New York are supposed to work together to re-inspect apartments as the lawsuit winds its way through the courts.
"I think this is a victory for the people of Newark," Lipshutz said. "I don't think this is a political city of Newark, city of New York. I actually think it's good for both cities to take care of the people."
Newark and New York are supposed to get back to the negotiating table Thursday. If that doesn't go well, city officials are threatening to countersue.
All done, both cities say, with these families' best interests at heart.
"I would love to go back to New York, but they sit there and say I can't because now I'm a Newark resident," Ellis said. "How does that make me feel?"
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