By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
A group of residents are working to make their apartment complex a better place.
Residents in the Garden Apartments of Daytona Beach formed a tenants association in May.
The goal is to bring unity, address issues and make improvements to the sprawling complex between Jean Street and Nova Road.
"We want to make positive changes within our community," Kiona Schultz, association president, said.
The association believes it's critical that tenants do this now.
"It's important on many levels. We want to bring awareness and educate tenants on their rights," association spokesman Tyrone Benford said. "We want to make them aware of what they should be receiving and how the conditions of their apartments should be. Also, we want them to understand the inner workings of HUD and rent offices, too."
The association consists of a seven-member board, which includes a president, vice president, secretary, vice secretary, treasurer, vice treasurer and sergeant-at-arms.
Community activist Erika Sipp helped the tenants organize. Ms. Sipp has done similar work in the past. She was instrumental in getting Daytona Village up to par and eventually bought by the Daytona Housing Authority. She also has done some work with housing developments in Sanford.
"I tried to work with the Garden Apartments in 2010, but there was conflict between the owners and management on letting tenants organize," Ms Sipp said. "I ended up going to Sanford where five developments had to be shut down and all those residents being relocated due to terrible living conditions. Another organizer did a survey a while back and we came together to see what we can make happen for these residents."
She also wants residents of the Garden Apartments to have a voice in the city's future.
"There is a lot going on in the Midtown area. I would like for them to be part of it. There needs to be some positive things happening there. I think this group will do some positive things in their community," Ms. Sipp said.
The Garden Apartments is in the Midtown section of Daytona Beach, which is the city's highest crime area. The Gardens residents have had their issues with crime, too.
The tenants association is aware of crime and public safety, but says their issues often are caused by outsiders.
"We have issues with guests of tenants coming in and making trouble. We are trying to get residents to do a better job policing their guests. That will help with public safety issues," Ms. Schultz said.
The organization also wants quicker response from the police.
"The only issue we have with them is that they don't respond to our needs. They often don't respond to calls in a timely manner. There are safety issues but they really haven't been discussed," Mr. Benford said.
No comment could be obtained from Daytona Beach Police by deadline.
There are other major concerns the group wants to tackle.
"One of the main issues that the tenants have discussed is maintenance issues," Mr. Benford said. "We have also discussed the conditions of the apartments where the people are residing. We want to get them up to par."
They know their work is cut out for them, but the association members are hopeful.
"I want this community to come together as one and make positive changes for ourselves and our children," Ms. Schultz said. "We shouldn't have to live in fear and be ashamed of our community."
"I want to see people here learn how to function within the community. A lot of children haven't learned," Mr. Benford said. "Many live in dilapidated units because they haven't learned how to go about doing what it takes to make it better. I want to help others be aware of the rights and responsibilities as well as how to go about getting things fixed in their units."