Evictions served at DeKalb complex plagued by violence and squatters

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Substantial changes may be on the way at Creekside Forest Apartment Homes off I-20 in DeKalb County following public outrage about the living conditions at the complex. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

Substantial changes may be on the way at Creekside Forest Apartment Homes off I-20 in DeKalb County following public outrage about the living conditions at the complex.

The owner served a notice of eviction last week, which “paves the way” for agencies working with DeKalb to help qualified residents find new housing, county spokesman, Andrew Cauthen, said Monday

The county has said it has worked for some time on getting the property owner to improve the complex, where many residents say they stopped paying rent because no one knew where the money was going.

A court hearing is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday in state court on more than 200 code citations against Creekside Forest’s owner.

It’s hard to tell how many people live at the complex, which some call “The Hole” at the dead end of Ember Drive, a notorious strip off Candler Road. But 18 residents are set for meetings to determine whether they can get help from a program that provides the first month’s rent for a new apartment, Cauthen said. Five more residents are being referred to the DeKalb County Housing Authority.

“By the first week in October, one agency should have 35 housing units available for eligible households,” he added in an email.

For some, changes can’t come fast enough.

Last Wednesday morning, 25-year-old Rashard Williams filled a red and white plastic cooler with bottles of water.

He gathered in front of his bleak unit with wife, Elizabeth, and son, Marcus, 2. They were about to walk down Ember Drive – past the strip club and cheap hotel, past the woman trying to sleep outside the shuttered seafood joint – to South DeKalb Mall, to sell water to passersby.

“To be honest, ain’t no water in there,” Williams said, motioning to his apartment. “Right now, we’re trying to get us a room.”

DeKalb County officials vowed earlier this month to help the residents. The owner agreed to let officials and nonprofit workers use the abandoned leasing office. The office door was wide open last Wednesday, with the interior battered and trashed by vandals. Through the broken glass on the backdoor, the sun shone on the green water of the swimming pool.

The grounds had been cleaned somewhat since earlier in the month, when trash was littered throughout the complex.

Commissioner Larry Johnson, who is the representative for the area, said in an emailed statement late last week that months of planning are coming to fruition.

Last week, Williams said he hadn’t heard from anyone with the county or any local nonprofits intending to help the residents. But he wasn’t critical of them, either. He seemed content to be in control of what happens to his family, even if it meant leaving an apartment without running water to sell bottled water to overheated mall patrons.

“At a time like this,” he said, “you got to make do with what you got.”