MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A troubled Memphis high rise went through management changes in recent years. But a WREG Problem Solvers investigation found the issues at Serenity at Highland have not improved.
Minnie Fisher is one of the many people we’ve spoken with over the years living at Serenity at Highland.
“I was upset and then I started to cry. That’s all I can do,” she said.
In 2017, the owners, Global Ministries Foundation, agreed to let new management take over. Ohio-based The Millenia Companies also planned to buy the property, which gave high hopes for some.
But new video evidence showed reason for people’s high hopes to have scurried away.
Cell phone video submitted to the WREG Problem Solvers by a nurse who has colleagues working in the building showed countless bed bugs scurrying across a mattress.
“That is a bed bug infestation,” the person taking the video said.
The nurse didn’t want to do an interview for fear of losing their job, but they did tell us other nurses say the conditions are even worse than the video shows, like finding “feces on the floors.”
“Sometimes they have, what do they call it? Black mold,” resident Dennis Carroll said.
Another woman said she’d had problems for at least five years.
Tenants outside the building said conditions are bad, though they can vary, depending how you keep your individual unit.
“It’s not the best but it could be better and it could be worse,” Carroll said.
Still, they all reported one universal problem like in the video.
“I don’t think there are too many people here who don’t have bugs,” Carroll said.
“It always has been an issue. I’ve been here 12 years,” another woman said. “I’m almost in a phobia about these bed bugs because once you get them it’s hard.”
The Problem Solvers did some digging, checking federal HUD inspections. The most recent one available from 2019 showed a failing grade of just 42 out of 100. That’s 14 points lower than 2018, when inspectors found life-threatening risks in several units, roach infestations and mold in common areas.
The Problem Solvers wanted to know why had conditions gotten worse under Millenia?
We went to ask management, where they said the conditions were livable.
“Are there problems with bed bugs?” we asked.
“No ma’am. I advise you to get off our property please,” the woman at the front desk responed.
We even showed her the video, but they wouldn’t answer any questions, instead providing a phone number for a Millenia representative in Ohio.
Over the phone, marketing and communications director Valerie Jerome said the company is still planning to re-do the building. But after three years, they have still not yet bought Serenity.
Property records show it is still owned by Global Ministries and she says she does not have a timeline for when that will finally happen. She did share before-and-after photos from another Memphis property they bought from Global Ministries and said their plans for Serenity are similar.
As for the bed bugs, she stated, “as a resident reports bed bugs, the unit is scheduled for a treatment.”
That’s not enough for some residents.
“They gotta do everybody. Do all the rooms. Do all the floors. Then they gotta come back,” said one woman who said her extermination had been incomplete.
When the Problem Solvers called Millenia back, we pushed them on this.
“Are there ever any kind of regular pest treatments that happen without a resident having to contact them?”
After that, she said they planned to “conduct a 100 percent unit inspection in the coming weeks and increase education around identifying and reporting bed bugs, so prevention and treatment efforts can increase.”