After receiving complaints from residents in more than 90 units at the Yale Park Apartments in the last week, the City of Omaha has forced all residents at the complex to evacuate.
Many of the tenants are immigrants from Myanmar, Burma, and Thailand.
"Some of my people have issues like the A/Cs not working, bed bug bite, roaches, some have mice,” one resident said.
Complaints ranged from gas leaks, mold, electrical issues, and mice.
"I have been with the city for 29 years, I have never seen an effort of this magnitude. I can't think of one (an apartment complex) as bad as this one." - Dave Fanslau, Omaha Planning Director
"Then you get things like black mold and out get enough of it and inhale it you get sick from it especially pregnant women and babies,” another reason said.
Chief Housing Inspector Scott Lane said about 90 percent of the units had numerous code violations: bed bugs, lice, maggots or rodents. Additionally, many of the units had other unsanitary conditions, and up to 40 percent had serious gas leaks.
"This place has been a rat trap and an eyesore the whole time," City Councilman Ben Gray said. "We have allowed slumlords to continue to exist... It is going to take all of us in the community to get involved and make these phone calls and press the city. Press my office, press me."
"I want to stress that this is much more of a humanitarian effort that it is a code enforcement effort. This is for the health and safety and welfare of the tenants of these apartments," Mayor Jean Stothert said. "We did receive some information that there could even be life-threatening conditions within these apartments and we could not let that go."
The mayor said the city has two community centers open for temporary housing and had 600 cots delivered for the 500 residents of Yale Park. The property owner, Kay Anderson, will get a list of every violation of every unit and he will have 30 days to make the proper repairs.
Lane said Anderson told him last week he had been "a little lackadaisical" in repairs but on Thursday morning he said the complaints were a "serious overreaction."
"I have been with the city for 29 years, I have never seen an effort of this magnitude," Omaha Planning Director Dave Fanslau said. "I can't think of one (an apartment complex) as bad as this one."
The city says all residents have been asked to leave because of major code violations and unsanitary conditions.
"We found plumbing issues, electrical issues, mechanical issues, building issues,” said Scott Lane, Chief Housing Inspector. "We did have remnants of mice, bed bugs, we had lice, we had maggots."
Greg Owen lives in the apartments with his wife and kids and says it’s really tough to see all the people having to leave.
”It's heartbreaking, but the thing that carries them through is their faith in God that carries them through that they know they're going to be OK,” he said.
City officials started working on an action plan just days ago after complaints began pouring in.
Several departments are playing a role including the fire department.
As the mayor said earlier this has now turned into a humanitarian effort to get all 500 tenants out of these buildings.
"We have allowed slumlords to continue to exist... It is going to take all of us in the community to get involved and make these phone calls and press the city. Press my office, press me."- Councilman Ben Gray
For those that don't have relatives or friends in the area whose home they could stay at, they're being transported to two different community shelters by city buses where they're expected to stay for the next few days.
The shelters are being organized by several organizations such as heartland family services, the Red Cross and The Salvation Army among many others.
The city said it did plan for emergency shelter yesterday in case the building would be condemned so bedding and cots were placed in the shelters yesterday to accommodate all families, which included more than 170 kids.
"We anticipate the shelters being a week or less and then identifying apartments,” said Joni Poore of Heartland Family Services. “We've already been in the community. We have our housing staff out actively looking for available units, putting down deposits and first month’s rent and then we will be matching families with those units."
Since the majority of the units had bug infestations, volunteers will be treating the belongings tenants take with them to the shelter to ensure bugs won't be taken there.
The Salvation Army will be providing all food for the next few days.