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Displaced Sunset Village Residents Warn of ‘Unsafe, Unlivable’ Conditions After Two Deaths in Cleveland, Miss.

Shattered debris is strewn across the floor of Kanesha Head’s apartment, with canisters, trash and equipment littering what looks more like an active demolition zone than a home. Her rental home has no water and no gas—the faucets squeak uselessly when she turns their handles, the appliances all sit inert. Food sits spoiled in her fridge, flies buzzing in swarms around the rot left behind.

The indescribable stench turns her stomach. “It’s horrific. It’s this unclean smell, mixed with the spoiled food, and the smell of the mold,” she told the Mississippi Free Press today.

No war savaged Bolivar County, leaving this destruction in its wake. The scenes in Head’s apartment this morning are not the aftermath of a hurricane. They are the conditions that many residents of the 136 units of the Sunset Village apartment complex in Cleveland, Miss., say they are being forced back into after over a month of displacement.

On Aug. 30, 2022, Deshundra Tate, 31, and her daughter Kendra, 5, died following a gas leak at Sunset Village. What happened next was a mass evacuation, the residents shunted to a pair of nearby motels while emergency repairs commenced at the apartment complex. As residents tried to adapt to life in one-room motels, a strange pattern emerged. They were expected to continue to pay rent on their units at Sunset Village even though they’d been forcibly removed from their apartments, while the apartment management firm paid for their motel rooms.

Vonetta McCoy, a resident at the Sunset Village Apartment Complex, shared eviction filings she received while displaced from her apartment. Photo by Nick Judin

Now, lawyers from the University of Mississippi’s Low-Income Housing Clinic have alleged a litany of egregious violations of housing law against complex owner Sunset Moore MS TC, LP, and manager The Millennia Companies, which is based in Ohio. In a filing against both entities, Housing Clinic Director Desiree Hensley alleges that management knew of the gas leak and failed to repair it prior to the death of both Tate and her daughter, allegations that residents shared with the Mississippi Free Press independently

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