SAVANNAH, Ga. – “I have been told by Lee Smith, the county manager, that there’s nothing they can do, that the county is not responsible, that it’s HUD’s responsibility,” Alicia Blakely, a Westlake advocate, said.
Blakely, along with other Westlake residents, discovered this after the county commission meeting Friday morning.
Blakely spoke with county manager Lee Smith and she said he told her the complex is under unincorporated Chatham County which gives county leaders no jurisdiction.
“They’re really not getting as much help as I thought they would get out here,” Barbara Rawls, mother of a Westlake resident, said.
Blakely, who’s been advocating for these families, went to Smith for help. She tells News 3, Smith said the county has to have a municipal code to allow them to have a say on multi-family housing.
That code does not exist. There’s only a state building code they can work off of which has added to the frustration of the residents.
“From bein sad to sorrow to anger to bein mad, because you’re trying to get help for them — the best that we can and every time we turn around it seems like there’s a road block,” Rawls said.
FEMA team members did visit the complex earlier in the week to inspect the 100 units, but only 20 were labeled uninhabitable.
“There were 20 identified by HUD and FEMA, but as you can see,” Blakely said. “This whole apartment complex, everybody who lives out here need to be placed in hotels. They need to come in here gut it out and do anything they need to do.”
At the moment there’s only one thing these families can do without any state help.
“FEMA has come out and they’ve looked into the apartments and assess them, but it’s going to take 10 days from the time to send the report in until anything takes place,” Blakely said.
Some residents say they’ve teamed up to get lawyers involved. They say they’re still working to find alternative housing in the meantime.