SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A recent medical diagnosis means time is of the essence for a displaced Suffolk Tower Apartments resident. However, there are so many roadblocks in his way.
James Copeland lived on the third floor of the Suffolk Tower apartments for just four months. On June 13, his life turned upside down after Herbert Boothe, 69, allegedly admitted to setting a chair on fire in his apartment. Boothe is now facing several charges, including arson.
This creating a tough situation for 44 residents with no place to go.
“I need someplace to live. I could get settled someplace. I will have a happier life,” said Copeland.
Right now, Copeland is living at the Super 8 hotel.
“I’m spending money that I had saved up to just move and buy clothing, and gas. It’s been really a pain,” he said.
The building owner and attorney Scott Alperin, Suffolk Tower Holding Company, stopped paying for hotels last Friday, citing financial restraints. Now, city taxpayers will continue to pay for residents until next Monday. Earlier this week, several residents had to move hotels for a lower rate for the city.
But for Copeland, he needs a new home and soon after a recent diagnosis.
“I have prostate cancer. I’ve had problems going back and forth to the doctors — that’s where I spend a lot of my gas. It’s a lot going on with me right now that I hadn’t really planned on,” he said.
Cheryl Griffin is working with the residents but is running into roadblocks finding affordable housing in Suffolk.
“Most of these residents were paying under $1,000. There is just not any housing in Suffolk,” said Griffin.
Hurdles like application fees, background fees or a months-long waitlist are making it difficult to locate housing.
“Some places are requiring up to three months rent and deposit, which is difficult for these guys to do. Now that they have been living in hotels and lost most of their stuff. Most of their stuff is in their apartment still but they can’t get to it. They have got their clothing and some of their items out. But they don’t know if they will ever get their furniture back — they are not sure. They haven’t gotten their deposits back. They don’t know if they are going to get them back,” Griffin said.
10 On Your Side called and emailed Alperin for comment, but did not hear back.
First Baptist Church Suffolk is collecting cash or $25 donations to help residents. Visit the website then indicate gift to fund: Suffolk Tower Aid.
Griffin is also working with nonprofit organizations like STOP inc. to locate rentals and housing.
“These are a lot of handicapped and elderly [people]. Some of them have been there for 30 years. They are not used to this. They don’t know the process for finding another housing or can’t afford other housing,” Griffin said.
Suffolk Department of Social Services Intake can be reached at 757-514-7375. Cheryl Griffin, the sheltering liaison, can be reached at 757-304-2883/