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Volunteers of America responds to complaints at Durango senior living complex

Empty apartments being filled, VOA looking to fill job positions
Owners of the Cedar View Apartments, Volunteers of America, have been without a manager and unable fill vacancies for more than a year. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)

Volunteers of America, which manages the Cedar View Apartments in north Durango, said it is working to fill vacancies at the 29-unit apartment complex for low-income seniors.

In interviews last week, Cedar View residents said the VOA has been slow to fill seven vacant apartments, and it has been slow to hire a manager and a maintenance person at the apartment complex. Residents said some of the apartments have been vacant for more than a year.

After a story appeared in The Durango Herald, the VOA responded by saying the organization is working to fill the vacancies, and currently has seven outstanding offers to fill the apartments. Applicants are given 10 days to respond to an offer for an apartment.

“Of course, we want to get all the units filled,” said VOA spokesperson Vanessa Clark. “Unfortunately, what’s been happening is people will go through the whole process, they’ll fill out the paperwork, and then for whatever reason at the very last minute they will pull out.”

Clark speculates the COVID-19 pandemic is the reason for applicants not following through.

“They may find a different solution, they may decide to stay where they are,” Clark said. “It seems like for seniors specifically during the pandemic there has been somewhat (of a) reluctance to want to move into a communal living environment.”

Cedar View Apartments resident Shirley Roberts said she doesn’t believe that VOA has had that many people turn down apartments.

“People are on that waiting list for a year to two,” Roberts said. “I can’t imagine that if anything comes available people won’t take them.”

As far as finding a new manager for the Cedar View Apartments, VOA said it is looking for someone with specific qualifications to fill the position. VOA has posted on a number of job sites to find a new manager.

“Hiring for this position has been a challenge as the person we hire must meet certain requirements set by regulatory agencies, but we are diligently working to find a qualified candidate,” Clark wrote in an email to the Herald.

Clark said that even though the position has not been filled, a rotation of three staff members, including two senior-level directors, have been visiting the property regularly and working with residents.

But Roberts said VOA staff members have been mostly unresponsive and unprofessional when it comes to the concerns of residents.

“They haven’t given a damn about all the calls that have come into them,” Roberts said. “They’re just not handling this in a real professional manner.”

The complex is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The VOA complex scored a 99 out of 100 on its Real Estate Assessment Center inspection performed by HUD in July. Fifteen units were inspected, with the only issue found by HUD being a refrigerator in one of the apartments that needed the door seal to be replaced.

One of Roberts’ major complaints is that people have been smoking in the nonsmoking building, and she said without a manager on site, there is a lack of consequence for residents who continue to smoke. She said it is her understanding that residents caught smoking in the building receive three warnings before any sort of action is taken.

“People here are 62 and over, and there are serious health issues with several,” Roberts said.

Clark said it is true Cedar View is short-staffed, which is a problem for many employers these days. The VOA is working to fill the vacant apartments and to hire for open positions, including running ads on six search engines and other places, she said.

“Providing quality service and care to our seniors is a top priority of Volunteers of America,” she said in an email. “... Service and cleanliness has not declined as a result of staffing challenges.”

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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