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Residents detail systemic issues at Fox Point Manor

Seniors living in the complex allege deteriorating facilities, “sheer intimidation” from management

Fox Point Manor, a publicly-subsidized apartment complex located at 575 Wickenden St., is known to some residents as “Purgatory Palace” and “Fox Point Penitentiary.” One resident described living there in no uncertain terms: “Never in my life have I lived anywhere as bad as this.”

The Herald spoke with four residents of Fox Point Manor on the condition of anonymity due to fears of retribution and jeopardizing their living situations. Each resident has been given a pseudonym in order to protect their identities. They described what they considered to be systemic issues in the buildings that have spanned years — including deteriorating facilities and “sheer intimidation” from management — as well as specific problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fox Point Manor, which has 91 one-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units, provides affordable housing to elderly and disabled tenants. The building is managed by Canning Management Group, which has four additional affordable housing developments throughout Rhode Island, according to its website.  

The Manor falls under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 program, which helps low-income families, the elderly and disabled residents. The Section 8 Rental Certificate program allows private landlords to rent to tenants, with HUD subsidizing rental assistance so residents pay roughly 30% of their income toward rent.

Tenants who had lived at the Manor for years described multi-year battles with mice, cockroaches and bed bug infestations. According to Christine Canning-Levy, director of operations for Canning Management Group, a survey is distributed to tenants on a different floor each week asking if there are pests in their apartments. “The pest control company is on site every Thursday, at which time they inspect each unit and collect the surveys on that floor,” Canning-Levy wrote in an email to The Herald.

Tenants who spoke to The Herald explained that those inspections were at times invasive, and that in instances of infestation, they often had to deal with mice and cockroaches themselves. “Their (extermination) stuff doesn’t work,” said a tenant referred to here as Robert. “I had to set my own traps.”

Each of the tenants interviewed said they had been trapped in the building’s elevator at least once, usually with no one there to answer the emergency call button. “I’ve been caught inside the elevator, so I grabbed the phone and dialed the number and I got the answering machine,” Robert said. “I had to bang and bang until somebody found out I was in there and they could call 911.”

“Any reports of elevator malfunctions are reported immediately to the elevator company. The elevator is shut down until the technician arrives, usually the same day or the following day,” Canning-Levy wrote. “There is always one elevator operational.”

Residents emphasized that elevator access was especially crucial for the many tenants in Fox Point Manor who have disabilities. Many people in the building can’t walk up the stairs, another resident referred to as Mary explained.

Canning Management said that the Manor has had no complaint citations from the Code Enforcement division, Board of Health or Inspections and Standards department of the city of Providence over the past five years.

Residents identified other failures to accommodate people with disabilities. There was previously a trash chute in the building, but now residents are responsible for compiling and transporting their trash to a dumpster adjacent to the building, which isn’t always a physical possibility. “There are people in the building that are disabled, having trouble walking, use wheelchairs — and now they have to go out to the dumpster,” said Patricia, a tenant in the manor. Robert explained that if they did not have a certified nursing assistant to help, garbage would simply take over their apartment.

“According to our House Rules, all tenants are responsible for placing their trash in the dumpster,” Canning-Levy wrote. “Anyone who reports they need help with their assisted daily living such as disposing of their trash” can work with a member of the Canning Management team to “find the best option for maintaining their residency at Fox Point Manor.”

But several sources from the building said that their liaison often failed to accommodate the needs of disabled residents and could not be relied upon. 

Though issues with pests or disability accommodations aren’t uncommon in low-income senior housing, the tenants explained that the building culture and relations with the management was what made living there especially difficult. When there are problems with the building or management, “many people are too afraid to even speak up” due to fears of potential retribution through eviction notices, one tenant said.

Retaliatory evictions of tenants who complain to the landlord or local or government authorities about code violations on the property are outlawed in the state of Rhode Island.

Management also says it has a “close working relationship with many residents.” In 2019, flyers were sent to residents seeking volunteers for a resident board which would meet with management to discuss any residents’ concerns. The group was discontinued due to low interest from residents, according to Canning Management.

Several tenants reported that they had been subjected to extensive room checks by management, which are allowed by HUD protocol, and were told to decrease clutter in their apartments. But this made them feel that their space and continued residency were at risk. “I was told I could not have anything in my apartment that I did not use every single day,” one tenant referred to as James said. 

Throughout the pandemic, particularly in the early phases of lockdown, several seniors in the building said they struggled with a lack of support from building management. Residents said that building management had sent out a letter during the pandemic saying that they had checked on each of the residents, but each tenant interviewed said no staff had talked to them. “No one ever checked on me,” Mary said. “No one ever called on me to ask, ‘Are you still alive?’” 

Later on in the year, new problems arose: Summer heat waves made the apartments exceedingly hot, as they do not have built-in air conditioning. At a meeting between the tenants about problems in the building, one resident present said that when they asked management about whether air conditioning could be paid for by the building, they were told that tenants “all had stimulus checks, so if we were having problems with AC, that’s what it should have been used for.”

When assessed by HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center Aug. 21, 2018, Fox Point Manor received a score of 76 out of 100 on their grading scale, which is 13.1 points lower than the average for HUD-subsidized multifamily complexes in Rhode Island. On Nov. 19, 2019, that score jumped to 87.

Canning-Levy wrote that Canning Management Group’s “collaborative and team approach with our management team, maintenance team and residents is the token of our community and allows us to be proactive vs. reactive.” 

“A lot of people just move. We’ve lost a lot of very good tenants, very good friends, because they were constantly intimidated by management until they left,” Robert said. Others don’t have that option. “I have no place to go. I’d be homeless,” Patricia said.

Previously, tenants said they had trouble getting help from politicians and local government officials. 

Recently, Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves ’13 MA’15 said he has taken “a hands-on approach” toward Fox Point Manor. He has connected some tenants with legal services, and talks regularly with the residents and management.

Goncalves emphasized that the problems seniors are facing in Fox Point Manor are not limited to one HUD-subsidized building. “This is a microcosm of the bigger issues there,” he said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of elected officials have turned a blind eye to a lot of the challenges that are happening in that building,” Goncalves said. “Moving forward, as we continue to compile some of the relevant concerns in that building, we have to think about recourse.”

Clarification: A previous version of this story referred to Fox Point Manor as “public housing,” when it is specifically publicly subsidized private housing. This story has also been updated to provide additional relevant information given by Canning Management after the article’s initial publication, including Canning’s efforts to incorporate residents’ input and its lack of citations from the city’s Code Enforcement, Board of Health and Inspections and Standards departments over the last five years.

Correction: A previous version of this story identified Fox Point Manor’s 2018 inspection score as 13 points below the average for all public housing in Rhode Island. In fact, it was 13 points below the average for all federally subsidized multifamily complexes in Rhode Island. The Herald regrets the error.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Christine Canning-Levy as Christine Levy. The Herald regrets the error.


Katy Pickens

Katy Pickens is the managing editor of newsroom and vice president of The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. She previously served as a Metro section editor covering College Hill, Fox Point and the Jewelry District, housing & campus footprint and activism, all while maintaining a passion for knitting tiny hats.

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