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KellyGram – The Allen Benedict Court Tragedy

 

 

Our city has been shaken up by the tragedy that struck last month at Allen Benedict Court, after “severe and lethal” conditions at the complex resulted in the deaths of two residents—Calvin Witherspoon, Jr. and Derrick Caldwell Roper—and the displacement of over 400 former occupants. An investigation of the conditions at Allen Benedict Court by the Columbia Fire Department revealed nearly two dozen housing violations, including lethal levels of natural gas and carbon monoxide in multiple units. In 2018, the CHA responded to at least eight gas leaks at the site, and City Councilmen believe this disaster was entirely preventable.

Over the years, I have represented many people who depended on the Columbia Housing Authority for lodging, most of whom could not find acceptable accommodations anywhere else in the city. It personally and professionally disturbs me to see how signs and signals of danger to the Allen Benedict Court residents were overlooked by CHA personnel. In addition to deaths and injuries, displaced residents are moved between hotels and are unsure when, or where, they will find a place to settle.

Photo from WLTX

The thought of being ordered to leave your home and never return is unfathomable and yet, for hundreds of members of our community, this is their reality. This situation is urgent and needs to be immediately rectified. Appropriate compensation needs to be provided to those who have been injured and displaced, and there needs to be a full-scale investigation to ensure this type of tragedy never again happens in our hometown. In the meantime, we, as a community must do what we can to help our neighbors through this crisis. Find out how you can help here.

Sincerely,

 

Mike Kelly

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