Dayton tornado victims wish they had more time to move

Some residents struggling with the heavy toll of the Memorial Day tornadoes became upset and disappointed this week when the city of Dayton ordered them to vacate their homes by Friday.

“They should have given us more notice and more opportunity to come get our stuff, especially people who don’t have vehicles or a way to transport or store their stuff,” said Elizabeth Reynolds, 39, who on Friday was bagging and boxing up her belongings from an apartment on Kelly Avenue.

The city’s housing inspection department has extended the deadline for some residents to vacate in order to provide additional time for their apartments to be brought up to livable conditions, officials and residents said.

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There are about 22 apartment buildings on Kelly Avenue, east of Troy Street, in the Old North Dayton neighborhood. Most were damaged by the tornadoes that tore through the area on May 27.

Some apartments had their roofs torn off. Others had windows shattered, gutters ripped apart and utilities knocked out.

Most of the buildings are boarded up, though a few have crews working on the roofs or cleaning the exteriors.

On Tuesday, the city of Dayton’s housing inspectors served 18 of the buildings with emergency vacate notices.

Orange signs were posted warning that people were prohibited from being on the premises, and violators would be prosecuted.

Letters were taped to doors saying the apartments were found to be dangerous because of no water service, no electrical service or structural damage. The letters stated that residents needed to find new housing by Friday.

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The tone in the letters was criticized by some elected Dayton leaders for being too harsh and lacking compassion.

Landlords indicated that 16 of the 18 buildings that received notices were empty, city officials said this week.

Inspectors said one building that received a notice was found to be in OK shape, and the city extended the deadline to vacate for other buildings, according to city officials and residents.

The city issued the vacate orders because inspections determined the apartments are unsafe to occupy, Shauna Hill, Dayton’s division manager of planning and community development, previously told this newspaper. The inspections took place after the Red Cross shared concerns about people living in potentially hazardous conditions.

Vicki Hammond, 51, has lived in a Kelly Avenue apartment for eight years and doesn’t want to leave.

Earlier this week, she told this news organization that she would go to jail before she moved into a shelter because she has has seven pets that need cared for, including four Chihuahuas.

Hammond said she learned the city has given her landlord more time to make repairs to allow her to stay put. She is the only tenant in her three-unit building that remains.

Hammond said an electrician came out on Thursday and hopefully Dayton Power & Light soon will be able to restore electric service. Hammond said her unit does not have structural damage and did not lose water service.

She said she hopes to stay in her apartment as long as possible, partly to support her landlord as he renovates the building. She said he needs her because he lost his other tenants.

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The emergency vacate orders should have given residents more time to move — preferably 10 days — because some people are in shelters and don’t have transportation or places to put their belongings, said Reynolds, who lived in her apartment for more than a year.

Reynolds said the apartments on Kelly Avenue generally are not safe to occupy, so she understands why the city wants people out. But she feels 72 hours was an insufficient amount of notice.

Reynolds strongly praised the Red Cross, Miami Valley Community Action Partnership and other groups for helping tornado victims find new housing and access other vital resources. Reynolds on Friday moved into an apartment in Fairborn, with Red Cross helping with the first month of rent.

“It took a tornado for us all to come together and see where we are and see what type of people we are,” she said. “The community has been amazing.”

Some residents of the Kelly Avenue apartments say they are eager to return, once their units or buildings are fixed up.

Sam Peters said he has been staying at his mother’s place in Fairborn. But he wants to move his family back in, hopefully in a few weeks, because the rent is cheap and he likes the place.

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