Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Public Housing Complex Causes Rift Mount Washington Residents Fear for Their Peace and Safety

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Public Housing Complex Causes Rift Mount Washington Residents Fear for Their Peace and Safety

Article excerpt

Angry neighbors of a 42-unit apartment complex in Mount Washington told officials Monday night that they want the public housing facility shut down because its residents threaten the community's peace and safety.

Residents of the Just-Inn Apartments in the former St. Justin High School on Lelia Street fight in front of the building, get drunk and urinate in public, have left hypodermic needles and liquor bottles lying in the street, and generally have made the neighborhood a dangerous and frightening place to live, about three dozen residents told Michael Polite, CEO of management company Ralph A. Falbo Inc., at Monday's emotional meeting in the Mount Washington Senior Center.

Emilee Russell, 44, told Mr. Polite that residents of the building have offered to sell her heroin and that one man follows her 16-year-old daughter home from the school bus stop every day. Residents have made numerous 911 calls in recent years, and police must respond there almost daily, but nothing seems to improve, she said.

"How many calls does it take before one of our kids ends up dead?" asked Ms. Russell, who said she recently ordered a steel door because she is terrified of the building's residents. "No one should have to live like that."

Mr. Polite said he understood neighbors' concerns and planned to address them as quickly as possible.

"We'll find out if some of the people we're serving aren't living up to their end of the bargain," Mr. Polite, 51, of Squirrel Hill told neighborhood residents and Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who organized the meeting. "We want to be fair to them, but also we want to be absolutely fair to the folks in the neighborhood."

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald advised neighborhood residents to communicate more with each other and with the property's managers, who gave their contact information to meeting participants. She also suggested installation of security cameras, better lighting, assurance of thorough background checks and the hiring of a private security guard or off-duty police officer for the site. …

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