War at the Wimbledons

Tenants Organize Against Poor Living Conditions

 Photo courtesy of Ella Rook

Photo courtesy of Ella Rook

Imagine waking up in your apartment to the sound of jackhammers only to go to the bathroom to take a shower and find the water turned off for the tenth time that month. Missing your hot shower, you leave for the day, only to be notified that you won't be allowed to re-enter your apartment until five o'clock that night because of ongoing construction. As you make your way through the complex to your car, you are forced to walk through a hard hat construction site with exposed wiring and rubble littering your path. For the residents of the 600-unit Wimbledon Square and Garden Apartments, a ten-minute walk from Reed, this is their daily life.

Four months ago, a group of tenants living in Wimbledon decided that enough was enough, and formed the Wimby Tenants Union to protest against mistreatment and neglect by management. On November 26, after months of planning and mobilizing tenant support, the union marched into the leasing office to deliver their demands. Tabitha “Tabby” Keefer, a Wimbledon resident, read a list of demands, which included reimbursement for two months’ rent for residents affected by water shutoffs or walkway repairs and no water charges for units affected by shutoffs. Keefer ended her statement by saying the union “look[s] forward to hearing back or we will be back”. Leading the union out of the office and into a central courtyard, they chanted, “No water, no rent! No walkways, no rent!”

 Photo courtesy of Ella Rook

Photo courtesy of Ella Rook

This was followed by a press conference, with speakers from the Portland Tenant Union (PTU), community members, and other residents of the Wimbledons. Margot Black from the PTU emceed the event and declared her support for the Wimby Tenants Union, calling their efforts a “demand for dignity” and adding that the tenants were asking for “very fair compensation.”

Attorney Jason Kafoury also spoke at the event, representing a tenant whose leg fell through one of the dry-rot walkways at Wimbledon. Kafoury claimed that “some of the worst conditions in the city are in these 600 units” and that when the Portland Fire Department inspected the property, they found “serious life safety issues” in all 60 buildings, including “1990s batteries in the fire alarms.”

Many residents shared their stories of other problems at the Wimbledons, including rodent infestations, bedbugs, mold spores, water leaks, algae in the pool, termites, dust mites, and a rat found swimming in the hot tub. Sam Bevington, a resident of the Wimbledons and co-chair of the union, shared her frustrations in working with the complex’s managers. She claimed that that she has “never experienced this amount of neglect and disrespect” from any other apartment complex she has lived in. She also said that because of the unscheduled water shutoffs, many residents are “not able to shower or use the toilet in their own home.”    

 Photo courtesy of Ella Rook

Photo courtesy of Ella Rook

A spokesperson representing the management released this statement: “Wimbledon Square and Gardens is more than just a property to us. It’s a community we’re proud to care for and be a part of. We’ve heard from our residents and take their concerns seriously. While of course we regret the temporary inconvenience caused by our work to bring improvements to the property, we go to great lengths to minimize the impact to all of our residents. We always work to alert residents prior to any construction that impacts their daily lives and we will continue to work with our residents to address their individual concerns.”

If you want to show your support for the residents of Wimbledon you can like their Facebook page “Wimby Tenants Union.”