Local organizations team up to bring resources to tenants at Gabriel Towers

Residents of Gabriel Towers sit in the shade trying to beat the heat on Tuesday. (Photo by Daisy Garcia Montoya)

By Daisy Garcia Montoya, Editorial Assistant

Residents of Gabriel Towers, 1600 Jackson St., got a helping hand on Tuesday, June 9, from local organizations after three weeks without air conditioning. 

Murray Woodward was driving down Jackson Avenue on Sunday, June 8, when he saw Leroy Sykes, a resident of Gabriel Towers, on the side of the road with a sign that read “No A/C Elder Abuse.” 

Woodward stopped to talk with tenants who told him that they have been without air conditioning for weeks. Woodward took to social media, posting pictures on Facebook, which attracted the attention of Third District-at-large Councilman Brandon Ellington and Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson.

Woodward connected with fellow members of the Centurion Leadership Program of Greater Kansas City, and as word spread, more organizations came out to help.

Kansas City, Missouri Police Department (KCPD) Officer Vito Mazzara, part of the Crime Free Multi-Housing Unit, said that after being notified that the complex had no air conditioning, officers talked to tenants to see how they could assist. Officers were told that food was priority, so they provided doughnuts and water for residents Tuesday morning. 

KCPD officers provided snacks and water to tenants on Tuesday. (Photo By Daisy Garcia Montoya)

Officer Holly Sticken, an interaction officer with Central Patrol, reached out to Scott Lamaster, founder of Taking it to the Streets to plan a lunch for tenants, Mazzara said.

Taking it to the Streets, a volunteer-based organization, along with KCPD community interaction officers, provided tenants with 280 meals on Tuesday afternoon. 

“It’s so hot in their buildings, they can’t cook, get food, resources, so we’re here providing great lunch for them, giving them some hope, love and encouragement along with the police department,” Lamaster said.

Many other organizations, such as the Centurion Leadership Program, provided food and even paid out of a pocket for Kona Ice, a shaved ice truck, to give residents a cool snack.

To help residents stay out of the heat while they grabbed a meal, KCATA provided handicap-accessible cooling busses.

Gabriel Towers resident Leroy Sykes stands in front of a KCATA cooling bus on Tuesday. (Photo by Daisy Garcia Montoya)

Director of Legal Services Amanda Myers with Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom (HCJF) talked to residents to inform them of their legal rights.

“Some of the tenants reached out to learn more information about their legal rights with the situation so that’s why we came out today,” Myers said. 

The lack of air conditioning is not the only problem found at Gabriel Towers. Six-year resident Terry Blanks said that the facility hasn’t changed the air filter in two years, nor has the furnace been cleaned. Additionally, the facility has mice, roaches and bed bugs.

Residents eat lunch outside Gabriel Towers, where they have been without air conditioning for three weeks. (Photo by Daisy Garcia Montoya)

“I think it’s headquarters doing this,” Blanks said. “They’re cutting us low because they think we’re low income. They look at us as second-class.”

Gabriel Towers is home to those aged 62 and older, handicapped or disabled. Rent is based on income, calculated at 30% of the household’s combined adjusted income, according to the property’s website.

After hearing about the complaints, KC Tenants helped the current residents organize to form a union. Together, they drafted a list of demands of issues that need to be fixed and provided the list to the management company, Millennia.

Organizers from KC Tenants help residents unionize on Tuesday. (Photo by Daisy Garcia Montoya)

“Most of the demands were agreed upon with deadlines for completion and the others “they’ll have to go back to corporate on,” Woodward wrote in an update on Facebook. 

The management company will begin emptying the backed-up trash shoot and agreed to provide working washers and dryers by July 1.

Residents expect to have the air conditioning fixed by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.

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