Residents alarmed by rampant crime, squatters at Atlanta senior living facility

Several residents here at the Veranda at Collegetown say the building is dangerous and filled with squatters and criminals.  

Residents are asking for help. Management there and Atlanta Housing are trying to improve things.  

"They have a lot of criminal activity going on in that building that needs to be really investigated," daughter Renita Callier explained. The San Francisco woman contacted FOX 5 earlier this year with a laundry list of complaints about Veranda at College Town, where her father, Charles Russell, has been living since 2016.  

She says he had a leg amputation and now lives on the top floor. He is subjected to unfortunate living conditions. 

"They have 9 or 10 people who are sleeping there without electricity, any power, just squatters basically. There are many junkies that are over there who jumped the fence to climb over into the property that was supposed to be prohibited from entering the property," Ms. Callier commented.  

Charles Russell

Charles Russell (Supplied)

Veranda is owned by Integral. Senior Vice President Rick White tells FOX 5, the facility has faced challenges, but is committed to managing these issues as effectively as possible.  

"The issue of unauthorized occupants or squatters is a significant concern. We coordinated our off-duty, APD Officer with on-duty, APD and successfully arrested the two individuals that were squatting in the building," White said. 

They also point to two disruptive households that are the source of unwanted activity and will soon be evicted. 

Ms. Callie and other residents who complained about the conditions of Veranda to the Fulton County Commission also have safety concerns.  

Atlanta police have confirmed calls for motor vehicle theft, vandalism to property, and burglary, among others. 

Veranda at Collegetown

Veranda at Collegetown (FOX 5)

"When I've been there at night, I've noticed that people were kicking the door. They looked like gangbangers because they were certainly not other senior citizens. We have people living in our attic. We have vandalism of our cars. Today, I was told nine car windows were broken out," resident Charlene Allen pleaded. " 

"We are just begging for someone to please come and see what's going on with our building. The homeless keep tearing up the back door. They keep breaking into people's cars. We just don't know who to ask for help," resident, Diane Usher, asked. 

The property has 100 units. Each tenant receives a rent subsidy from Atlanta Housing. They said there will be a hearing on June 18 dealing with code enforcement requirements. 

Integral released the following statement: 

Let me acknowledge the concerns raised by the residents and thanking you for the opportunity to address each point. The Veranda at CollegeTown has faced challenges, but we are committed to managing these issues as effectively as possible.  

1.      External Factors: You certainly understand how a small number of individuals can cause significant disruption. We currently have two households that are the ongoing source of unwanted activity, and they are under eviction with WRITs ready for execution. While I do not suggest that they are the source of all the issues, once these two households are removed, many of the overall concerns at the building will significantly decrease. 

External factors, such as the capacity of the eviction court system, sometimes constrains our efforts, but we are doing everything within our power to address residents' concerns promptly and thoroughly. The recent passage and the Governor’s signature of a new law should afford us some relief. 

2.      Presence of Squatters: The issue of unauthorized occupants, or squatters, is a significant concern. We coordinated our off-duty APD officers with on-duty APD and successfully arrested the two individuals that were squatting in the building.  

3.      Break-ins: We are deeply concerned about the reported break-ins. To enhance security, we have repaired the entrance gate and are exploring the installation of additional surveillance cameras. We have also met with residents several times to hear their concerns directly. We are collaborating with local law enforcement to ensure a higher police presence in the area. 

4.      Code Enforcement Violation: We are aware that some residents are bypassing the site’s established work order system and reporting routine maintenance issues directly to the code officer. This tactic has led to pending code enforcement violations, which our maintenance team is actively working to resolve as soon as we become aware. This approach not only places an undue burden on the public system but also delays our ability to address routine maintenance issues efficiently. It is common for maintenance issues to arise over the weekend and for the code officer to cite them on Monday before we have had a chance to address them. 

5.      Emergency Property Management Contact: We recognize the importance of having an accessible emergency contact number. We established a 24/7 emergency hotline when the property was initially opened, which continues to be available for resident use. Residents can use the hotline for any time-sensitive issues. This information has been regularly communicated to the residence since then, but we recently disseminated a reminder to all residents, ensuring they have the necessary support during emergencies. In fact, we regularly conduct on-site training on how to use the hotline. 

6.      Broken Entrance Gate: We have recently completed repairs to ensure the gate remains functional and have scheduled regular maintenance checks to prevent future breakdowns. As you can imagine, the gates are relatively fragile and not designed to withstand being struck or pushed by cars. Additionally, the supply chain for the mechanical systems is severely slow. Due to these challenges, we are considering the installation of a more robust gate system too.