WATCH: Sen. Ossoff Convenes Hearing on Mistreatment of Families by Landlords & Threats to Children’s Safety

Sen. Ossoff’s Subcommittee heard heartbreaking testimony from Georgia tenants about dangerous housing conditions that have threatened their health & safety

Witnesses testified about sewage leaks, inadequate safety infrastructure, bug infestations, and lack of repairs

Click here to watch a livestream of the hearing

Roswell, Ga. — U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee Chairman Jon Ossoff is continuing his investigation into the mistreatment of families by landlords and threats to the safety of children in dangerous living conditions.

Today, Sen. Ossoff convened a U.S. Senate Human Rights Subcommittee Hearing in Roswell to receive testimony from renters and experts about the mistreatment of tenants by landlords in Georgia and nationwide and threats to the safety of children in dangerous living conditions.

“A home is more than a place to sleep — it must be a place of safety, and of security. But for too many Georgians, and for too many children in Georgia, home is instead a place of peril,” Sen. Ossoff said in his opening statement. “We’re here today because the mistreatment of Georgia families and children by landlords must stop.”

Witnesses testified during the hearing about the dangerous housing conditions they’ve faced, including severe mold and pest infestations, sewage leaks, bug infestations, and more, that threaten the health and safety of their families — especially their children.

“Four months of daily exposure to raw sewage, floating, discarded food particles, fecal matter and blood was extremely hurtful and inhumane. Despite reports the management, my daughter was taking a shower while my upstairs neighbor flushed her toilet. The content of her bowel movements covered my daughter’s feet while she attempted to take a shower, to clean her body, instead found her feet covered in feces,”Miracle Fletcher, a former tenant in Atlanta, Georgia, testified“This was a horrifying experience for my daughter and myself as a mother. At that moment, I felt the pain of being unheard all over my body, leaving me empty without recourse or support.”

“I can’t leave any food out, even to fix our plates, because if I do, there’ll be roaches in our food. If I fix anything to drink, we have to cover our cups and cans with a book or something heavy otherwise bugs will get into our drinks,” testified Latysha Odom, a tenant in Griffin, Georgia. “My youngest, two-year-old, does not want to go to the bathroom alone because of the roaches. It’s been several times that I or my girls have been in the tub, or the shower, and a roach will fall into the water. When we are ready for bed, we all climb into my bed because my six year was afraid to sleep alone. Even being in my room is still scary … my six-year-old falls asleep with her hands covering her ears.”

“My ceilings continued to collapse from water damage and leaking. Once the ceiling collapsed while my 11-year-old, then, who’s now 16, was in the shower. He was bathing and yelled for me. When I ran in there to him to see what was going on, he said the water was coming out of the out of the ceiling,” DeAnna Hines, a tenant in Morrow, Georgia, testified. “When I grabbed him to pull him out of the tub, the ceiling fell exactly where he was bathing at. I felt very hopeless and terrified that I couldn’t protect my child from a ceiling.”

Sen. Ossoff also heard testimony from two expert attorneys who represent tenants facing alleged retaliation for reporting maintenance and security concerns.

“The sad truth as we’re hearing this morning is that subsidized landlords in Georgia, who are getting government rent money, often are not providing the basic housing that we the taxpayers are paying for,” testified Esther Graff-Radford, a tenants’ rights attorney in Chamblee, Georgia. “I frequently see that landlords are neglecting maintenance to the point that they are endangering their tenants.”

“These aren’t just mere inconveniences—these are flagrant violations of human dignity and the right to live in safe and decent condition. And these violations are in direct conflict with HUD’s purposes and mandates. By not acting quickly, and with the full force of law behind, HUD has allowed these property owners to place their profit over the health and safety of children and their families,” testified Ayanna Jones, Senior Litigation Counsel at the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.

“For all of the families across Georgia, who feel what you, Ms. Hines, Ms. Odom, Ms. Fletcher have described to us today that you can’t care for your children because of the situation that you’ve been put on, and that no one is listening, and that you’re being ignored, and that you face retaliation when you do speak out, and that your child’s at risk and you are at risk — the purpose of this hearing is to elevate your voices and to ensure that the United States Senate is listening,” Sen. Ossoff said in his closing statement. “There are not easy answers and easy solutions, but I’m going to continue to fight for and work on behalf of families facing mistreatment by landlords here in Georgia and across the country.”

Click here to watch a livestream of Sen. Ossoff’s Subcommittee on Human Rights Hearing.

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