Biloxi woman talks about housing lawsuit

Mary Waltman
Mary Waltman

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Department of Housing & Urban Development is taking action against several companies for what they call unfair housing. Wednesday, HUD announced a lawsuit against Mississippi's Region VIII Housing Authority, Oakridge Park Apartments and Sun Belt Management Company.

Mary Waltman is the woman at the center of the controversy. She says she was mistreated by all three organizations. And she has a warning for other disabled people seeking help finding a place to live.

"Read the pamphlets. Don't just put them in an envelope and stick them to the side. Read them," said Waltman. "I've stayed by dumpsters until I found out it was illegal. Last night, there was a bad storm and I went and knocked on the door to see if they would let me sleep on the couch."

Right now, Waltman is staying with friends. But it wasn't long ago that things looked a lot different.

In 2007, Waltman moved into the Oakridge Park Apartments with the assistance of the Mississippi Region Eight Housing Authority. The disabled woman said she needed a first level apartment, but agreed to temporarily live on the second floor until a unit became available. When it did, Waltman said, things didn't go as planned.

"At first she told me it was my apartment," Waltman said. "Then a couple days later she said, 'You can't have that apartment.' I said, 'What?'"

She claims both Region VIII and the apartment community broke their promise and the law. Now, she's taking them to court.

"I had no idea that there was anything that I could do about this until a lawyer knocked on my door," Waltman said.

With the help of HUD, Mary Waltman is suing Oakridge Park Apartments, its parent company - Sun Belt Management, and Region VIII.

"As a tenant, I felt like I was under the thumb of somebody at all times. And no one should have to live like that. Nobody," Waltman said.

WLOX News contacted the management at Oakridge Park Apartments, but were told no one from the complex is authorized to speak to the media. We also contacted Sun Belt Management, but have not received a response.

Jessie Billups with the Region VIII Housing Authority told WLOX News, "Because this case is now in litigation, we will have no comment at this time. The case has been turned over to our attorney."