MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Leaders down at Memphis City Hall are passing the blame when it comes to who's responsible for a run-down public housing complex.
Squatters have taken over the old Walter Simmons housing complex near Knight Arnold and Lamar. It's an eyesore and wide open for thieves.
The city of Memphis is tough on abandoned property owners. They get hauled into court. They have to board up the property to keep people out. But apparently they don't have to follow their own rules.
After those in charge at city hall learned we were doing a story, workers were sent to the abandoned housing complex to clean it up. It's been abandoned for more than a decade. But people still live here.
David Johnson's called it home for two years, "I'm just waiting for my social security check; when it comes I'll be able to leave," he said.
Around 30 people are squatting on this property. Police know it. Johnson says they do nothing, though sometimes they make a cursory check.
Johnson told abc24.com they'll ask for your id and if there are no problems and you're not giving them any trouble, they'll just move along.
Truth is this is a big blighted property, 23 acres, with dozens of empty buildings. Since the windows and doors aren't boarded up, thieves have stripped the buildings.
"I see a lot of people come through and grab scrap metal," Johnson said, "I saw people come through this morning."
Robert Lipscomb, the man whose job it is to redevelop blighted neighborhoods, passed the buck on this city-owned property.
Lipscomb has two full-time city jobs and two salaries. One job is the Memphis Housing and Community Development Director, the other the Director of the Memphis Housing Authority. Together he makes about $250,000 from the public trough.
In this case the double hats allowed him to double talk.
"We sold Walter Simmons to the city years ago, it's not ours," Lipscomb said, "It belongs to the City of Memphis."
If the city wanted to do something about this blighted 23 acres, it would. Until it does, Johnson and the others have found a not-so-cozy place to live.
Truth is no one from city hall would go on camera and talk about this piece of property they own, only saying the city is in the middle of trying to work out a deal to sell the property.