NewsThe NorthSider

Gnats, odor at Homer G. Phillips apartments vex residents

THE VILLE – Bugs and stench.  That is what elderly residents of a city owned building are dealing with according to one person who dealt with it daily until he couldn’t take anymore.

While investigating claims that the city-owned Homer G. Phillips senior apartments property may be changing contractural hands, that resident tells The NorthSider and that the multi-apartment senior housing complex at 2601 Whittier Street has a gnat infestation and a foul odor, causing him to move in less than two weeks.

The resident, Willie Greer, said that the former hospital’s laundry chute-turned-trash chute contained remnants of trash and that bags of trash sometimes got stuck in the chute, causing the problems.

His apartment’s vent is adjacent to the trash chute vent, he said, so the smell and gnats are overwhelming. The same is true for renters in apartments directly above and below him who are also in close proximity to the chute.

“Hospitals don’t have trash chutes, and that one should never have been turned into a trash chute,” said Greer, a military veteran living there as part of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, Section 8.

“I have gnats in my food and my refrigerator, and I have been bitten,” he said.

Last year, Greer said, he called the St. Louis Housing Authority to express his concerns. After his apartment failed a subsequent inspection, Greer said, his only recourse was to move out of the building.

Another resident near Greer is battling the same problems but was afraid to comment, fearing eviction retaliation. One of that resident’s family members did agree to talk to The NorthSider, albeit anonymously.

“No one shouldn’t have to live like this; but they want their money,” the family member said, adding, “The entire building smells like death sometimes.”

The family member said that complaints to staff in the building had been first met with ineffective solutions.

“I talked to them about gnats and they told me to go to Home Depot or Menards to get sticky strips and air fresheners.”

Exterminators did come to rid the affected units of gnats, but the family member said the insects always returned because of the nearby trash chute.

The family member said that moving to a different unit would be the only fix but that management had said an additional security deposit would be required.

A call to the City of St. Louis Health Department was made, the family member said, but the family had not gotten a response.

The NorthSider also reached out to the department and hadn’t received a call back by press time. However, the family member claims that other issues existed last year that the Health Department had found.

Fox 2/11 had reported then that some units had a widespread lack of hot water, bedbugs, roaches, mice and minor mold.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, who had called for the inspections last year, said,  “The thing that really jumps out at me is, a lot of the things we were hearing from residents were found to be true.”

Issues there now with the trash chute has the family member quite upset.

“I’m pissed off at the way they treat these seniors who paved the way for us. For them to treat them like this is ridiculous,” the family member said.

The company that manages the apartments, Minnesota-based Dominium, did return a phone call but had not called back with answers to the questions presented by The NorthSider by press time.

“I will call corporate and see what I can find out for you and call you back,” a spokeswoman said.

Bill Beene Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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