Evergreen Terrace residents attended a town hall meeting Friday to discuss ways the complex could be spruced up.
It was complex manager Sylvia Gray’s first such meeting since taking the position July 1. She said she wanted to give residents a chance to speak up about maintenance, rent and noise concerns.
“This is not a personal venting session,” she said. “We do want to hear what you have to say, but we also want to be able to find solutions for the common body.”
Residents met at the terrace’s community center, where staff hung large banners labeled with topics such as rent and maintenance and encouraged residents to write their concerns in the appropriate spot.
“Part of having a town hall meeting is to find solutions,” Gray said. “We’re not gaining anything if you’re saying, ‘This is not working, but I don’t have a solution for it.’ You’ve got to have something.”
Several residents voiced rent increase concerns, and Gray said University Housing now employs a grant writer to help alleviate Evergreen Terrace’s rent burdens.
Staff member Katrina James said one major rent increase residents pay for came after the university purchased the complex from the Department of Housing and Urban Development five or six years ago. She said it led to a $100 jump in rent.
“Everything that we do comes directly from your rent,” Gray said. “We’re not getting any extra financial aid from SIU. If something breaks, or something isn’t taken care of, we go to the books.”
Gray also announced that English classes for residents’ children, which Evergreen dropped because of budget cuts, will return to the complex Nov. 15. The announcement was met with applause.
James said she wants to develop new programs for kids, but she needs residents’ feedback on what types to implement.
“My youngest (child) is 9,” James said. “My ideas run over really quickly when it gets down below that age. We try to pump out at least two things a month for students.”
Several other addressed items pertained to noise violations. Young Shim, a doctoral student in accounting from South Korea, said the complex should inform residents of potential punishments for slamming apartment doors.
“People know that they should not slam the door, but most people also know that they should not pee in the middle of the road,” Shim said. “If you say that slamming the door is not good, I think that may help.”
Despite several residents expressing displeasure over maintenance wait times, Gray said maintenance workers are overloaded with work orders and Evergreen Terrace employees and residents cannot do the workers’ jobs.
“We are a union state,” she said. “Simple things like plugging in the stove after someone moves in we cannot do. An electrician must be called to plug in that stove. It’s just that serious.”
Gray said the best thing residents can do is form close relationships with workers to keep operations smooth.
Resident Sasha McKnight, a graduate student in criminal justice from Chicago, said she thought University Housing would better understand Evergreen Terrace’s issues because of the meeting.
“Everyone is always frustrated because they never get to speak their mind,” McKnight said. “A lot of issues (Gray) didn’t know about before tonight. For us to be able to tell her our problems and for her to listen to them was good.”
Shim said he has seen vast improvements at the terrace since Gray became complex manager, and he attended the meeting to show his support. Shim said he thinks Gray has done more in three months than the previous administration did in 30 years.
Delwar Hossain, a graduate student in journalism from Bangladesh, said he appreciates the new administration’s work.
“I have been here for more than four years, and I’ve never seen this kind of an attitude,” Hossain said. “It’s kind of … about respecting the people living here.”
Gray said she used the meeting to let residents know she was on their side.
“We’re fighting the same battle that you’re fighting, but we’re fighting for you on that,” she said. “I’m going to the very top about maintenance issues. They know my name.”