Mothers against gun violence advocate for seniors in public housing who are living in fear

WEST PERRINE, Fla. – A group of mothers against gun violence has been checking up on seniors in Miami-Dade County’s West Perrine neighborhood. Aside from having to worry about the risks of the coronavirus pandemic, the seniors are having to deal with the fear of becoming the next victim of a shooting.

Romania Dukes founded Mothers Fighting For Justice about two years after her son De’Michael Dukes, 18, was fatally shot on July 21, 2014. She and members of the support group have been doing welfare checks on the public housing residents.

“Bullets have actually landed on top of the roof of these seniors’ house,” Dukes said.

Two police officers walked around the neighborhood with the Mothers Fighting for Justice members. Dukes said a stray bullet struck a woman’s window. A woman told them she stays away from the windows to avoid being hit, and another one said, “I am scared to death.”

“I know, I am scared for you,” Dukes said.

The stress of the coronavirus pandemic makes it more difficult to not have basic services. Gail Brown was frustrated about it all, but at a time when cleanliness is even more important, she said vandals motivated management to lock the communal laundry area.

“I have been trying to wash clothes for two days,” Brown said, adding “It doesn’t make sense. I pay my rent every month. I shouldn’t have to live like this.”

Not all of the residents are as open as Brown. Dukes and her team have been speaking up for all of them — some of whom are too afraid to leave their homes.

Nela Villalobos, who is an assistant administrator for Miami-Dade’s Public Housing and Community Development, said that if there is a report showing that a tenant is involved in criminal activity that’s when they have a right to evict them.

“We don’t guarantee safety,” Villalobos said.

Miami-Dade County has two public housing communities serving seniors in the West Perrine neighborhood: The Perrine Villas’ 20 units at 10000 W. Jessamine St., and Perrine Gardens’ 158 units for seniors and families at 10161 Circle Plaza W.

The promise on the government’s site: “To provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly and persons with disabilities.”

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