Vilma: Tenants Find a Voice
"Our house is a totally different one today. I feel better, empowered and respected."
When Liliana Mangiafico walked into the Vilma and Oscar's Framingham apartment, she wasn't prepared for the extent of the substandard conditions she found. There were bed bugs, mice, a hole in the living room ceiling and a sopped carpet due to a severe water drainage problem, among other problems. "I wouldn't even know what word to describe when I first stepped into the house. I was in shock," says Liliana, attorney and program director for Advocates Advocacy, Benefits & Legal Services (ABLS) program.
The couple, who work as custodians and have rented the subsidized unit for eight years, reported the issues to management over the course of two years to no avail. Vilma contacted ABLS in July 2009 after a neighbor told her about the program. "My house was in total disrepair when I went to see Liliana," says Vilma. "The landlord had totally disregarded our multiple requests for maintenance and we were afraid that if we complained we were going to be evicted. I felt desperate and very alone back then."
The same day, Liliana went with Vilma to management, who claimed the issues had never been reported. She put management on notice of the legal violations and assisted Vilma and her husband with reporting the situation to the Board of Health. Inspectors found more than 25 health code violations in the apartment. Even with repeated inspections and fines, the landlord didn't make prompt repairs. Liliana began a mediation effort and inquired whether other tenants were facing similar issues.
Ultimately, after more than two years of work, including reporting health code violations and court action, Liliana was able to get management to comply with repairs. The apartment underwent a full renovation and Liliana is still working to get management to cover the costs of refurnishing the apartment. "My client and her family today have a home that affords its residents dignity and safety," says Liliana.
As a result of Liliana's work with Vilma and Oscar, more than a dozen other tenants in the 585-unit complex came forward and asked for assistance. Liliana helped them form a tenants' association. "The idea is to address major and legal issues, remove ourselves and ensure that the clients feel entitled and capable going forward to address issues on their own," says Liliana.
For Vilma and Oscar's part, ABLS' assistance was life-changing. In addition to effecting much needed repairs, extermination and renovation, Liliana helped give the family a voice. "ABLS through Liliana has tremendously changed my life," says Vilma. "Our house is a totally different one today. I feel better, empowered and respected."
| Advocates Inc., One Clarks Hill, Suite 305, Framingham, MA 01702
- Text size
Supporting you, your loved ones, your friends, Your neighbors...
Advocates provides support services for people with:
- Mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse
- Intellectual or developmental disabilities or co-occurring mental illness and developmental disability
- Prader-Willi Syndrome
- Autism and pervasive developmental disabilities
- Acquired or traumatic brain injury
We also provide support services for:
- Deaf adults with mental illness or a developmental disability
- Families who are supporting a family member with a disability
- Elders living in the community who may have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder
- Adults with a mental health diagnosis in jail or re-entering the community
- Youth in transition from foster care
- Individuals and families who are homeless or at risk for homelessness