Code inspectors search for bed bug problem at GMF’s Serenity Towers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Another Global Ministries owned property is now the target of scrutiny.

Early Thursday morning, dozens of code enforcement officers swarmed Serenity Towers, a senior high rise in Midtown owned by Global's housing non-profit.

GMF Preservation of Affordability Corporation.

There was no word late Thursday about if, or how many violations were found, but residents at Serenity Towers have complaints similar to other GMF properties.

WREG obtained pictures from a Serenity Towers resident showing what looks like bug bites and skin irritation.

The News Channel 3 Investigators met earlier this week with residents who shared the same concerns.

"I have seen bed bugs, I have seen roaches, we've had some problems with flooding."

Neither resident wanted to identify themselves or show their faces on camera for fear of retaliation.

Those same complaints about bed bugs drew the entire Code Enforcement team of roughly 40 inspectors to Serenity Towers Thursday morning.

Some even wore protective gear.

County Commissioner Eddie Jones also works for the city as a Code Enforcement Supervisor.

He said to WREG, "We're out here to do an inspection of this property."

Public Works told WREG it first received a complaint in late January about bed bugs at Serenity; a records review uncovered two previous violations for the same problem.

Thursday's sweep of the high rise for seniors was to determine the severity of the problem.

Similar to residents at other GMF owned properties, a woman WREG interviewed said even when repairs are made, they're not sufficient.

WREG asked, "Would you describe it as patchwork?"

She replied, "Less than patchwork, it'd be good if they even patched it."

GMF-PAC bought Serenity in 2014, financed with $14.5 million in tax-exempt bonds.

Records show the previous owner had just completed $3.5 million in upgrades before the sale to GMF.

As part of the financing agreement, GMF committed to making an additional $400,000 worth of improvements.

In an email, a GMF spokesperson told WREG half of that has been spent on individual unit repairs and the rest will be used for things like security systems and common area upgrades.

A review of financials showed total revenue for Serenity Towers, LLC in 2014 at just over $2.1 million. Of that, only $99,179  was spent on repairs and maintenance.

GMF told WREG it spent about $100,000 just to correct the bed bug problem.

The rep added, "Ledic and GMF have been aggressively attacking and decreasing a bedbug issue that was in place during the acquisition of Serenity."

However, one resident told WREG, "You don't spray once a week and spray every third apartment on the whatever and expect to get rid of anything; that's not going to do it."

65-year-old Willie Harris has been at Serenity for three years.

He says while there are some upper management issues, and problems that come with a 50-year-old building, he has no complaints.

"I've seen an effort to keep this area clean, to keep the outside as well as the interior clean," said Harris.

The two buildings that compose Serenity include roughly 400 units. While not all of them are occupied, Code Enforcement blocked off five hours for the sweep.

Public Works said it would take a while to compile then release the results.

The MidSouth Peace and Justice Center has been working with residents of Serenity Towers to form a tenant association.

WREG also discovered residents received a notice from LEDIC this week about the formation of the "Serenity Resident Club."

The notice stated an introductory meeting was to be held February 10.

Mid-South Peace and Justice Center Executive Director Brad Watkins told WREG, "Seeing people, seniors with bed bug bites, all over their arms, all over their stomachs, windows that leak water, shows that the events out at Warren and Tulane aren't isolated incidents."

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