Omaha residents coping after safety concerns oust them from apartments

Legacy Crossing Apartments occupants were told Monday morning to vacate by 5 p.m.
Tenants of an Omaha apartment complex are left stranded with few answers.
Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Legacy Crossing apartments in northwest Omaha sat empty Monday night, just hours after the city announced the complex was no longer fit for living.

Residents tell 6 News they’ve seen this coming for months, but now, some are stranded and have been left looking for a place to sleep before bitterly cold temperatures make their way to the metro.

“We were woken up at 10 a.m. with the police knocking on our door telling us that we had to be over to the office in a half hour, that they were condemning all of the buildings,” resident Deborah Reutler said.

Reutler moved to Omaha from Wisconsin and has lived in Legacy Crossing since 2019. This week, Reutler says her significant other passed away, and now she’s dealing with a surprise eviction, all just days before Christmas.

Reutler says it was in March that the complex’s maintenance team stopped making repairs.

“We’ve been without working appliances, working sinks, and things like that since then,” she says. “We have had rats, roaches, mice, bats, and quite a few of the apartments, their ceilings have caved in.”

Reutler has been paying $1,300 a month to live in those conditions the city has deemed health and safety hazards.

NEED HELP? Legacy Crossing residents in need of assistance finding housing were advised to contact Heartland Family Service at 402-552-7400 or 531-200-3500.

The same goes for resident Renay Kellogg, who moved into Legacy Crossing after facing several months of homelessness.

“I don’t want to pay for roaches to live with me, I’m not a dirty person so I don’t want to have to live with roaches but this is like... yeah.”

At Mayor Jean Stothert’s press conference about the condemnation, she held up a stack of papers - all of them code violations.

“I just brought these in to show you, a list of notice of property violations of reports that we have and so that you can see, they’re, they’re a lot,” Stothert says.

Heartland Family Service has been working to help the hundreds of displaced residents find temporary, and eventually new permanent housing, but residents like Reutler say some people have been overlooked.

As of Monday evening, Reutler’s calls to the Heartland Family Services helpline only got through to the organization’s voicemail. The automated message says it could take up to three days for her to receive a call back due to the high call volume they were receiving.

“Deborah Reutler, I’m facing homelessness immediately,” she says in her voicemail. “I have had no assistance whatsoever. Please help. Thank you.”

For residents like Reutler and Kellogg, the future is still unclear.

“It was hard because, again, I was homeless for seven months, hotel hopping and trying to find a place and now I got to do it again,” Kellogg says tearfully. “I don’t want to be a part of this, this is not OK.”

Amid the chaos of hundreds of families and residents being forced to move out of their homes in a matter of hours, there were some helping hands.

Omaha Task Force Security, Dynasty Movers, and County Security - all locally owned businesses - rented more than half a dozen UHaul trucks and helped dozens of residents move furniture out of their apartments.

The groups provided their time and resources free of charge to those who had been evicted.

Working with UHaul, the companies were able to secure 20 to 30 storage units for residents to keep their stuff in for free for at least one month.

The volunteers say if the tables were turned, they would appreciate the help, too.

“Christmas is coming up Sunday, this was the worst time, we have a storm coming in, negative temperatures, it would be a bad situation,” says Robert Dunkinsel with Omaha Task Force Security. “Some of the elderly people we helped out have been so appreciative because some people don’t have nobody to go to so, you know, we’re here to help out those in need.”

The Omaha Community Foundation is also helping those impacted by accepting community donations to their Legacy Crossing Relief Fund.