On Sunday, a group of students from Florida International University went to Riviera Beach to interview the women responsible for the Tenants Union at Stonybrook Apartments.
According to Crystal Lewis and Edna House, the union’s president and vice president, respectively, the complex has had issues with mold and asbestos for about a year, which could result in long term consequences for those who live there.
The two claim the owner, Global Ministries Foundation, has allowed the problem to fester.
Side effects of mold and asbestos exposure could eventually lead to upper respiratory tract infection and pleural plaques, according to National Capital Poison Center.
Attorney Malik Leige is working with the tenant’s union.
“Mending is just putting a band aid on something,” he said. “In their case, painting over it.”
Moses Shumow, an associate professor of digital media at Florida International University, decided that the situation at Stonybrook was a great subject for his students’ capstone project, which is focused on housing situations in South Florida.
He wanted to help the students break out of their comfort zones.
“I was inspired by the passion and commitment of these two women,” he said. “I was also happy to see the reactions from the students.”
Annabell Santos said she wanted to go to Stonybrook to get to experience with filming equipment. She said she was astonished by what was happening there.
“I didn’t know that slums and slumlord like companies existed so close to home,” she said. “I do hope that giving this story coverage helps bring more awareness to the injustice the tenants that have come together to fight back.”
Kirsten Cabarcas, another student, talked about how frustrating it was to see people living in these conditions.
“I hope we are able to shed light on the struggles these people are facing,” she said.
Maria Zeppenfeldt said she was inspired by the stories told by Lewis and House.
Both Lewis and House have lived at Stonybrook long enough to see the harm it is causing the families that live there. Their neighbor’s children have developed asthma and need respirators, they said. But they are hopeful about the future.
“We think that at end of all of this will be a beautiful outcome,” House said.
FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post misidentified Kirsten Cabarcas in the bottom image. Updated Sept. 21 at 3:35 p.m.