Seniors Hope to Regain Their Voice as…

Seniors Hope to Regain Their Voice as Leadership Changes in Ferndale Housing Commissionroyal_services

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 20, 2014)

The Ferndale Housing Commission has given Director Deborah Wilson a deadline to resign. Wilson was arrested Nov. 3 after being caught by police coming out of a resident’s apartment with 21 stolen Percocet pills in her pocket. According to police, Wilson admitted to having routinely gone into apartments and swapping narcotics for over the counter pills like Tylenol. She is now facing charges for home invasion and possession of narcotics.

Following a closed session with Attorney Justin Smith at their Nov. 19 meeting, the Commission voted unanimously gallowaycollens1to give Wilson until Dec. 1 to resign before considering a termination. A resignation is less complicated than a termination and protects the Commission from future litigation.

Wilson is currently on unpaid leave. Emily Vickey, who has worked with Wilson for ten years as the Public Housing Operation Manager, is serving as the Acting Director and is likely to be promoted to the position full time once Wilson’s resignation is accepted.

“In all the years I’ve been serving on the Commission, I never thought we’d have to hear something like this. I pray for us all to get through this. I pray for her,” said Commissioner Paul Stuart.

UPDATE – Nov. 20 – Wilson appeared in court for a preliminary exam on Nov. 20, but decided to waive the right and proceed to trial.  The case will be heard in Circuit Court, at a date to be determined.

In addition to facing the decisions made in Wilson’s situation, the Commission was confronted by protestors Judy_Palmer30yearsat the meeting. A Detroit resident who had been receiving vouchers through the Section 8 federal housing program was told that the property where she stayed no longer qualified due to an increase in vacant and blighted properties around the home. The Commission offered to help the woman find a rental that qualified so that she would not lose her voucher, but the woman refused to move. She said that forcing her to move was racist, and Detroit Eviction Defense has gotten involved to represent her and hold protests at the Withington West apartments, where the Commission office is.

Residents at the meeting sat in the reception area of the building while the Commission and the attorney held a closed session. The elders discussed concerns about how they had been treated by Wilson, and expressing hope that things would get better with Vickey at the helm.

Speaking only with the promise of anonymity, residents said that previous attempts to hold resident meetings were not essentialwell-received by Wilson. One resident said she was called into the office and reprimanded for approaching other residents about forming a residents’ discussion group. Another said that in meetings past turnout was low and that residents were afraid of speaking out.

“Some people won’t stand up for themselves because they are afraid they would be written up or evicted,” one of the residents said.

“I think for some people they don’t complain because they think things are okay, that this is the best they can do because they have never had anything better,” one woman said.

Talk also turned to the case against Wilson. One resident said she was among the victims of Wilson’s pillseed024_jeannie_davis_from_lori thefts. “I was taking my pills but they weren’t working,” the woman said. She and two others recalled similar suspicious incidents, stating there were times when they would be in bed and hear a knock at the door. Before they could answer, Wilson would enter the apartment and then make an excuse, telling the resident that another resident had heard a loud noise and she was checking on them, or that no one had seen them for a few days and she was doing a welfare check.

The woman whose medication was taken said she never realized that that pills had been switched, she just wondered why her medication stopped working. “It’s all over the news that this woman had cancer. Cancer is not a free pass. We’re all sick and in pain and she stole our medicine.”

Another noted that Wilson had a job and access to healthcare, while some seniors struggled to get by, and lacked transportation. The residents then shared tips about hiding medicine in their homes, with one resident ending the sidebar012stairsdiscussion by saying “It’s my home. I should not have to hide anything.”

Neither residents nor protestors were permitted to speak during the meeting. Both groups reported being told that requests for public comment had to be submitted in writing in advance of the agenda being released, and had to include the topic included in the request.

Smith  informally spoke to a group of residents after the meeting, asking them for patience as Vickey transitioned into her new leadership role. He said that Vickey “has a good heart” and would listen to the residents. He suggested that residents go to Vickey with concerns, and that they continue to be involved by coming to meetings.

The seniors agreed to give Vickey time, and that she was a good-hearted person. “We don’t want to bombard her,” said one resident.

The Ferndale Housing Commission is headquartered in Ferndale, but manages a Section 8 program through nicholas-schrock-allstateHUD offering vouchers that can be used in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties. In addition to administering the Section 8 voucher program, the Ferndale Housing Commission’s main task is a public housing program that is limited to the Ferndale city limits. This includes two facilities for elderly, low income and disabled residents, Autumn House and Withington West. There are also scattered houses through the city that are owned and managed by the Commission, including 15 two bedroom, 21 three bedroom, and 7 four bedroom homes for low income families. The Commission is separate entity from the City, although City Council does appoint the members of the Commission. Learn more at

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