On Saturday, Feb. 17, the Northern Regional Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods (MAIN) held its monthly meeting at the Sharing Place Community Center in Talmar Wood from noon to 2 p.m. The meeting follows announcements on FirstClass to find student-residents of Talmar Wood who have had problems with the living conditions in the units and the maintenance work of the Housing Foundation.
The Housing Foundation is a “private, not-for-profit, whose mission is to develop and maintain affordable housing for low-income residents,” according to Housing Foundation executive director Duska Hayman.
Northern Regional MAIN was founded in 1999 to work “locally on issues that affect low-income families – our families,” according to one of their pamphlets. At the meeting held on Saturday, about seven residents of Talmar and three representatives from Northern Regional MAIN – all former residents of Talmar – were in attendance.
During the meeting, which was chaired by Northern Regional MAIN president and former Talmar resident Laura Moore, the residents filled out tenant documentation forms and got a chance to air their grievances with the maintenance of the Talmar Wood units. At the end of the meeting, paralegal and Maine Equal Justice Partners representative Chris Rusnov spoke to the residents and addressed their concerns. Maine Equal Justice Partners is a non-profit organization that works in a variety of ways to improve the conditions of low-income Maine residents.
Concerns expressed during the meeting included insects, mold and condensation in the units, cars illegally parked which do not get towed, charges made to the residents for maintenance that should be covered by the Housing Foundation and attempts by the Housing Foundation to wrongfully keep the security deposits of residents who move out.
Mold was the biggest issue, with four current residents and one former resident recounting their experiences with it.
Jamie Dorman, a current Talmar resident who is allergic to mold, said, “I’m concerned mostly for my kids. If it’s my health it’s one thing; when it’s my kids’ it’s another.” Dorman said that maintenance has taken care of the mold once, replacing Sheetrock in her closet, but the problem has been recurring.
In an interview, Hayman stressed the importance of residents alerting maintenance with their problems.
“If a person has an issue, what I hope they would do is contact our maintenance department. If there is an issue, it is my hope that it would be handled properly,” Hayman said.
When asked about the issues with mold, which current Talmar resident Jessica Leonard said has to be tested by the tenants to determine whether it is dangerous, Hayman said, “We [the Housing Foundation] would [test it] if we felt that there’s a reason to test it. I think it’s important to realize that mold comes in many different forms … The common household type of mold isn’t dangerous, it’s merely unsightly.”
At the end of the meeting, Rusnov spoke to the residents, giving them advice on how to best address their issues with the Housing Foundation and an update on current legislation pending in the Maine legislature that could affect low-income residents.
Some residents at the meeting expressed concern that the Housing Foundation would not be receptive to their concerns. Rusnov addressed how many of the residents felt about meeting with MAIN when she said “The beauty of doing it as a group is, you don’t get singled out.”
After Rusnov spoke, Moore handed out extra copies of the tenant documentation forms, encouraging residents to distribute them to their neighbors and gather more attendees for next month’s meeting, to be held on the third Saturday of March.
“Let them know it’s not just low-income. Tenant’s rights are tenant’s rights.”