FOX 8 Defenders: Residents file suit against owner of The Willows
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A group of New Orleans East residents sues the owners of The Willows apartments, alleging they’ve let the property fall into disrepair. Our FOX 8 Defenders investigations exposed what residents called dangerous conditions at The Willows and two other properties owned by a religious non-profit.
Cierra Dobard contacted the FOX 8 Defenders last year, begging for help with her family’s living conditions. In May 2022, she told us she thought mold was growing in her living room.
“We complained to the office several times, I talked to the owner, I talked to management and I told them we’ve been having all kinds of issues, we’ve been having cold like symptoms and he’s just not doing anything about it,” Dobard said at the time.
Our reports showed how other tenants at The Willows said they too were living in deplorable conditions. This week, Dobard, her husband, and four other Willows residents filed suit, seeking damages. Dobard says their goal is to make things better. It has been her motivation all along and was what she told us back in October of 2022, even as management tried to evict her.
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“Like I’m just trying to change things around and trying to make a difference,” Dobard said in October.
On that day of the near eviction, we showed up, along with city council member Helena Moreno, who, from the beginning, has also tried to help the residents of The Willows.
“They’ve been very courageous, as you know, they’ve had to suffer even with retaliation coming from the ownership and they’ve persevered,” Moreno said.
The Willows are owned by a religious non-profit out of Tennessee, Global Ministries Foundation, or GMF Preservation of Affordability Corporation. The CEO, Richard Hamlet, is an ordained minister.
An attorney for the residents says all they’re asking of their landlord is what they have contracted for in their leases, habitable housing for their families without hazardous conditions and free from repeated violence.
“This is a shame, this is a disgrace, if you represent the Lord, you shouldn’t represent it like that, that’s not right,” Dobard said in October.
“The amount of angst and suffering that they’ve had to endure is to the point of being cruel and so I applaud them for filing this lawsuit,” Moreno stated.
The lawsuit also names the Housing Authority of New Orleans, because a number of Willows tenants receive section 8 vouchers to live there. We reached out to HANO, who had no comment, as it hasn’t been served the lawsuit yet. Richard Hamlet also told us no comment on the lawsuit.
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