Wellroot CEO apologizes to residents of 750 East Lake Drive, offers moving expenses assistanceApartments at 750 East Lake Drive in Decatur on August 9, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — After giving some residents 38 days to move out of the apartments at 750 East Lake Drive, Wellroot Family Services Chief Executive Officer Allison Ashe has publicly apologized to the residents during an appearance on WABE’s “Closer Look with Rose Scott” on Aug. 16.
Wellroot purchased the property at 750 East Lake Drive in June and plans to provide housing for 30 young adults and possibly families. A letter was sent on Aug. 1 to several residents notifying them that they had to move out by Sept. 9. Ashe told Decaturish that the short notice was due to an internal communications error.
To listen to the full interview online, click here.
During her Closer Look interview, Ashe explained that the notice was sent out mistakenly as questions were asked about renewing leases and getting out of leases. She also said she wasn’t aware of the letter at the time it was sent out.
“We certainly did not mean to cause any harm to the current residents of the property. The timeline was truly a mistake,” Ashe said.
As leases expired, Wellroot did not renew leases, and one resident called the organization to ask about getting out of his lease. That left five residents still living in the complex.
“I asked our team [to] reach out to them and see if other folks are interested in getting out of renewing their lease, and it just got miscommunicated, and we sent them a notice that we were not going to have them stay,” Ashe said. “I feel terrible about that. We’ve been trying to rectify the situation and take actions to make the transition as smooth as possible for those folks.”
She added there was not an internal conversation about the best way to communicate to the residents because Wellroot hadn’t gotten to that point yet.
“That was just simply an internal communications error. As soon as I found about it, again, I was mortified. I can’t move in five weeks. I understand that moving is a hard thing. I asked our team, let’s get on the phone with the community and offer more time and see what they need,” Ashe said. “I would like to offer some help with moving expenses. We’re in the process of reaching out to all the residents to offer them $1,000 each in moving expenses.”
Wellroot is a faith-centered family services organization that offers programs related to foster care, transitional and independent living and family housing. It is an agency of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. The agency was called the United Methodist Children’s Home until December 2018.
Wellroot was previously located off South Columbia Drive in Decatur on the property that is now known as Legacy Park. The city of Decatur bought the property in 2017 for $40 million. When the United Methodist Children’s Home sold the property, the young people in the programs were moved into apartments throughout the greater community. Their current lease at that apartment in DeKalb County is expiring.
“The young people in this program lived on that campus that was in Decatur,” Ashe said. “We felt like we could provide them a more loving and nurturing environment if we owned an apartment community when we can house them more close together as opposed to spread across a larger community, and really a place that’s very family-oriented, has employment opportunities nearby, has public transportation nearby, so that they can get to school or to work easily. The young people in the program would really benefit from being in a community like Oakhurst.”
When Wellroot was looking to purchase an apartment complex, the organization hired a broker and was not shown any vacant properties and was not aware of any vacant properties, Ashe said.
“This one, of the properties we looked at, absolutely checked all the boxes in terms of being a warm and inviting communities we felt like would accept and help us nurture the young people in the program, and, again, the opportunities for employment that exists in the Oakhurst community, the public transportation and just the beauty of the property overall,” she said.
Wellroot is still developing its plans for the property.
“Wellroot’s Residential Programs serve young adults ages 18-24 who were previously in foster care, and young families who need stable housing,” Ashe previously told Decaturish. “The programs provide support services as well as community-based housing. We offer ongoing life skills development, including financial literacy, tutoring, and career development. We support our residents as they enter college or trade school.”
Wellroot will also provide wraparound services, most of which will be offered at Wellroot’s Tucker office. Some services will be offered on site, like life skills classes in cooking or finances.
The organization hopes to bring residents to the property soon, but before that can happen, renovations will be done to address some deferred maintenance issues.
“There is work that needs to be done on the property — some before our young people move in and then another round, likely after they move in, after we’re able to secure funding to do more extensive renovations,” Ashe told Rose Scott on Closer Look.
The immediate work includes replacing roofs and gutters and remediating water damage.
“The property is in disrepair, so we want to do the initial things that we need to do, including some beautification and landscaping,” Ashe said. “Then we’re going to be working to seek funding to do further renovations to make it a community asset.”
She added Wellroot intends to make the property beautiful for the community.
The apartment complex in Oakhurst is considered to be naturally occurring affordable housing, and city leaders are looking for ways to preserve this kind of housing. Ashe said Wellroot plans to keep the apartment affordable and will set the rent below the market rate.
Wellroot’s next steps in the project are to continue to reach out to the residents, offer them assistance with moving costs, making sure the organization has the correct move out dates for residents, communicating with the Oakhurst community to discuss the plans, and set a timeline and pricing for the renovations. Wellroot hopes to have young people move into the apartment complex in the fall.