In early January, a 69-year-old resident of the Katharine Bates Apartments — a "senior" building on West Uintah Street — told the Independent he heard loud booms outside his window in the early morning hours.
When he walked out to his car hours later, he found the parking lot littered with shells from a .45.
"How do you know someone's not going to be driving around, putting a bullet through your window?" he asked, outraged.
The incident illustrates a point that officials with the Housing Authority of the City of Colorado Springs are eager to make: Some of the problems at their senior buildings are beyond their control. While records show that residents at five of the Authority's nine senior buildings call the police a lot, some of those calls are related to incidents happening outside.
Pam Simon, the Authority's asset management supervisor, says she always follows up on police calls to Authority buildings.
"Sometimes we found out that some of these assaults, it could have been out in the parking lot," she says. "It could have been two [people] that were not related to the building at all that were walking by."
Simon notes that private apartment complexes often deal with similar problems. (Indeed, a check of four private complexes located within the vicinity of an Authority senior building revealed one with an impressive rap sheet.)
Locations that are near a park, a popular business, or that have secluded parking lots tend to have the most problems with outsiders, Simon says. The Housing Authority has tried to combat the problems by adding rotating part-time security guards, putting up exterior lighting, adding security cameras, and bringing in police officers to speak to residents about safety.
Terri Shaver and Barbara Turk, who each manage half the Authority's senior buildings, say another problem comes when a simple dispute between tenants escalates. With so many nonworking residents spending the vast majority of their time together, problems occur.
Turk has an elderly resident who has called the police on her upstairs neighbor, a disabled man, because he makes a lot of noise moving around and has a tendency to drop things. Shaver had to intervene when furious residents of one of her buildings began calling police, upset that a neighbor had a large dog in the building — a service animal.
Gene Montoya, the Housing Authority's executive director, says misunderstandings are also an issue. He remembers a call from a scared senior who told him a neighbor was up at 2 a.m., talking to the Coke machine. Mental illness can often be scary to seniors, he says.
In cases of irritation or misunderstanding, managers send letters, make calls, and eventually, if problems persist, bring tenants in for face-to-face meetings. If two residents continue to bicker, they often schedule a mediation at the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office's Neighborhood Justice Center. Turk and Shaver say interventions promote understanding and are often successful.
"It's the dynamics between the lifestyles," Turk says. "What is irritating to a senior who is more sedentary and quiet and maybe only has family over every once in a while, [is different than what is irritating to] the younger [person] who has more friends because of their lifestyle. Just the door opening and closing because [a young person] has visitors, that may irritate a senior. And [the senior is] thinking, 'Maybe that person's dealing drugs because they have so many visitors.' Well, not necessarily."