Susie Goin never should've been living at the Martindale Apartments. The 51-year-old is missing her right hip and has an artificial left one. She lives in a second-story apartment with no stove and no bathtub. Worse, the elevator that was installed as part of renovations three years ago has been spotty from the beginning and hasn't worked in almost six months. Goin (pronounced "going," as in "Goin Goin gone," she jokes) only leaves the building about once a week, she says, by ratcheting herself downstairs on a single crutch. But the Martindale was the only place she could immediately move into when she needed a place two and a half years ago, so that's where she found herself.
Now Goin is one of 41 residents being forced to move out, as Avista and the city of Spokane prepare to cut off services to the former Hillyard high school because of outstanding utility bills totaling around $70,000.
Vickie Johnson doesn't understand why she and her tenants have to leave. The 67-year-old manager of the apartment says she first started receiving warnings from Avista last spring. She assumed owner Jim Delegans was taking care of it and continued to send along each month's batch of rent checks. She says she received little communication from Delegans, even as warning letters continued. A year later -- and after a one-week deadline extension -- the city is pulling the plug. Delegans, who also owned the Carlyle and Otis Hotels and the New Madison building downtown, told the Spokesman-Review last month that the Martindale wasn't receiving enough government funding to float the building, which housed many on Social Security and with mental health and drug problems.
Whatever the case, the deadline appears to be final. Everyone must go.
The mood at the Martindale earlier this week was gloomy. Ron Cooper, 49, has been living in the same small, first-floor studio for 14 years. He acknowledges he'd heard the warnings about unpaid bills, but he continued to pay his rent and never heard a word from the building's management. Then representatives from Avista hung a flyer on his doorknob, advising him they'd be shutting off the power. "[It] put us all in a state of shock," he says.
Anita Kelley says she found the notice from Avista slipped underneath her door. "There was an envelope on the floor and you look down and go, 'What?!'" she says. Kelley, 51, just moved in to the Martindale in February after a hard, two-month search for housing. On Monday, her apartment was barely unpacked.
Kelley, Cooper and Johnson got lucky, though. The sympathetic manager of another north-side apartment has happily rented units to them and five other Martindale residents -- starting on Friday -- meaning at least some of them will get to stick together. Still, they mourn the loss of the larger community. Kelley says everybody at the Martindale knew everybody else, and tenants would often sit in the lobby and talk. "You don't like to get attached to people and then have to leave," she says. "It's like starting out as a kid and building all over again."
As of press time, 21 of the Martindale's residents hadn't yet found a place to live in a tight residential market made tighter by the displacement of some 200 people from downtown low-income housing in the last year. Local social service agencies have been scrambling to help.
Susie Goin still didn't have a place to go as of Monday, though. Apartment hunting isn't easy for a wheelchair-bound woman on the second floor. "I'm scared. Really scared. It's a good thing I have family," she says, noting that her son's girlfriend was going to take her out to look. If she finds a new place, though, she suggests it might be a mixed blessing. "I've been wanting to move for a long time," she says. "But I don't want to be thrown out."