Public housing

One Man’s Ongoing Battle With Public Housing Agency – The Famuan

Oliver Hill Sr. Courtesy of Tifany Hill

Advocate for the rights of black tenants in public housing, Oliver Hill Sr., is fighting a new battle to obtain ADA housing while he is rehoused.

This comes after the Tallahassee Housing Authority [THA] received funding for the redevelopment of apartments on Orange Avenue.

Tifany Hill, the daughter of Oliver Hill Sr. and a seasoned outreach specialist, detailed her father’s issues and concerns.

He currently lives in an apartment building, entering the early construction phases of the Orange Avenue redevelopment plan.

In efforts to begin construction, Hill experienced utility cuts, crucial for emergency alerts to her family in relation to her disabilities.

Hill suffers from cerebral palsy, a reading disability, a speech impediment, and other medical issues.

He has suffered from a motor disability since birth, but his condition has worsened with age.

The gas in the apartment of the 79-year-old man, who controls his air-conditioned unit, suffered a cut at the start of construction.

Tifany Hill also said her father suffered a cable and internet outage, which connects her family to an emergency alert system.

According to a case study published by THA, the agency determined that Orange Avenue apartments were unsafe in 2016.

According to Tifany Hill, THA struggles to find housing with ADA accommodations that maximally match Hill’s disabilities.

THA considered moving Hill into temporary housing until he could get him the housing he needed.

Moving Hill more than once can be a difficult task for his family.

Tifany Hill believes the housing authority failed to provide for her father’s disability when carrying out the moves for the redevelopment plan.

“They weren’t prepared for someone who has a disability…we want them to have enough patience with us to move on and get the upgrades so they can move in [to an apartment with upgraded ADA accommodations]“said Tifany Hill.

According to THA, Orange Avenue Apartments only offers four ADA apartments.

There are 14 in total in all public housing complexes supervised by the THA.

Hill first entered the Orange Avenue Apartments in 1971, when he was a young man starting a family.

He became the vice-president of the Orange Avenue United Tenants Association along with John McMillan, who was the association’s president.

Oliver Hill Sr, standing in front of the Orange Avenue United Tenants Association sign. Courtesy of Tifany Hill

McMillan and Hill launched OAUTA to highlight the many issues faced by tenants in social housing.

The OAUTA did not only affect the tenants of Orange Avenue, but also the tenants of the other social housing buildings who also had problems.

OAUTA also focused on educating the young black community on issues related to women’s health and cultural learning during the 1970s.

In 1977, the Leon County School Board stopped bus services for elementary school children.

The council found the Orange Avenue apartments to be outside the 2-mile service rule.

Hill fought to get school buses running to Orange Avenue apartments again.

The walk to school was too dangerous and busy for the children alone, especially if the parents were busy.

A Hill’s associate detailed her experiences and the respect she gained for him over the years.

Claudette Lorraine Farmer, the current athletic director of Rickards High School, first met Hill when he coached a City League softball team. He became his assistant coach at Rickards in 1986.

Farmer described Hill as a down-to-earth and strong man.

“He’s a strong man, he’s a very smart man, he’s analytical. I have a lot of respect for him. I learned a lot from him,” Farmer said.

Even after local news articles from the 1970s portrayed Hill as a controversial troublemaker, Farmer believes Hill got into “necessary trouble”.

“People used to call him a troublemaker, but you know what I’m referring to John Lewis, when he gets in trouble, he gets in necessary trouble, good trouble,” Farmer said.

Farmer also told a story she would never forget involving Hill and one of her daughters.

“I’ll never forget we were running and she didn’t want to run, she had run out of gas and she didn’t want to go anymore, so she wanted to sit down and she left and when I looked he was coming with her and he took her back to practice and was like, ‘Coach, if you need any help, I’m here to help,'” Farmer said.

Hill was also the head coach of the FAMU softball team in 1978. Farmer was a player on his team. He also served as Farmer’s assistant coach for the FAMU women’s basketball team in 1990.

Tifany Hill and her dad’s fight didn’t end with the move. They also hope to put the Hill name back on the apartment complex’s community center.

She remembered her father’s words about members of the community being recognized once they are dead and gone.

“I want my dad alive and well to see him get his due and give him the recognition he really deserves,” Tifany Hill said. “His name needs to come back on the community center.”

Farmer also believes Hill should get the recognition he deserves for his community involvement.

Tifany Hill doesn’t believe Hill will return to Orange Avenue apartments as he gets older.

According to THA chief executive Brenda Williams, most tenants are expected to be relocated by June 30.

“We didn’t have a landline number,” Williams said. “We hope that the remaining families will be relocated by June 30.”

So far, more than 40 families are still waiting to be relocated from low-income apartments.