Passing the ‘smell test’ |

Passing the ‘smell test’

It is no small thing for a senior citizen to be evicted from low-income housing, especially in a high-cost area like the Roaring Fork Valley. But that’s exactly what’s happening at the Crystal Meadows Apartments in Carbondale.The case of Lea Cano, 79, who is being pushed out of her unit at Crystal Meadows, doesn’t quite pass the “smell test.” It appears that Cano, who subsists on a fixed, poverty-level income, is being kicked out of her unit essentially for being a bit cranky and disagreeing too loudly and too often with those who manage her housing complex.The notice to vacate the apartment said “the Carbondale Housing Authority has received numerous complaints from other residents about your harassment and anger issues.” When Cano asked for details, she received a sheet that said, among other things, the following: “Negative comments toward management and CHA [Carbondale Housing Authority] with people in the community,” and “chewing out resident about dog.”Needless to say, these alleged acts of misconduct hardly constitute a reason for eviction. There’s nothing about property damage or failure to pay the rent. “Harassment” can be a serious charge, but not if it’s merely complaining to a neighbor about a dog. Either there’s much more to this picture than Cano lets on, or Cano is getting shafted.The Crystal Meadows Apartments are a valuable resource; without these low-income housing units, it’s doubtful whether many of the occupants would be able to live in the Roaring Fork Valley. This of course makes it all the more important to administer the resource fairly and responsibly.Jerilyn Nieslanik, who manages the apartment complex, and CHA board member Jerome “Sarge” Whalen have thus far failed to return calls from The Aspen Times. We have not heard their side of the story, beyond the written notices that Cano has shared with the newspaper.Cano is supposed to vacate her unit by March 1. With the help of an attorney from Colorado Legal Services in Grand Junction, she was planning to file a grievance with the CHA board.At the very least, Cano deserves a fair hearing with the board. And if it turns out that Cano is being unfairly targeted, then we hope she is allowed to stay in her apartment.

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