PORTLAND, Ore. — Seniors who live at an apartment complex in North Portland where an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease occurred last year will receive financial help to relocate.
“While I do appreciate what they're doing to help us relocate, it doesn't change the fact that this has been my home for almost 13 years,” said Marilyn Hasan, who lives at Rosemont Court.
On Wednesday, Hasan was packing up and getting prepared to leave her life here at the apartment building. She said what was especially difficult is the thought that she’ll be leaving the people she's come to see as family and friends who also live at Rosemont Court.
“It's devastating, because we're moving into areas [where] we don't know anyone,” said Hasan.
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at Rosemont Court in January of 2021 sickened more than a dozen people. One person died.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia or lung infection, caused by bacteria often found in standing water. The source of the outbreak is still unconfirmed.
Hasan said on Tuesday she found out she and others will get some financial help to move.
Currently, residents are not being forced to relocate, but the building owner, Northwest Housing Alternatives (NHA), as well as county health officials have urged residents to move due to ongoing concerns that the bacteria that causes the disease may still be in Rosemont's water.
“No one's been sick since September,” Hasan said.
The financial help consists of up to two years of rental assistance and up to $4,000 to pay for moving. It comes from a partnership with the Joint Office of Homeless Services and funding from other organizations. The rent money would cover the difference between what residents pay now and whatever rent increase they may experience when they relocate. Two organizations, the Urban League of Portland and Northwest Pilot Project, will help facilitate rental assistance.
“This will be extremely hard on people and disruptive of the community at Rosemont Court. We’ve tried so hard to avoid it. And now we are incredibly grateful to the Portland community for coming together to make sure every resident at Rosemont Court is able to retain stable and affordable housing through this challenging transition. It was a very stressful year for residents. We are grateful to the Joint Office of Homeless Services and our philanthropic and nonprofit partners for making this possible,” said Trell Anderson, executive director of NHA.
But at almost 68 years old, Hasan said the stress is too much. She said she’s currently able to walk to the grocery store and take a single bus in order to get to the doctor’s office and other important appointments. She said she doesn't know where she'll end up next or how long it'll be until she'll be able to move back in. She and other residents expressed concerns about having to re-apply or rent going up upon their return.
They are worried they may not be able to come back to the place they call home with the people who’ve become their family.
“What happens if they're not done in 24 months? Who's going to pay my rent, and I end up moving into a tent? I mean, I'm just putting it out there like it is. I'm just keeping it real. I don't have a job,” Hasan said.
For now, she's trying to stay positive despite all the uncertainty.
“I'm just trusting right now that it's going to work out in my favor, in all of our favors.”
Juanita Watson, a former Rosemont Court resident, said she hopes people like her who had Legionnaires’ disease and have since moved out will be able to get more financial help as they continue to have fallout from the disease.
The building owner has raised more than $415,000 to help residents relocate. NHA plans to continue working with health experts to make sure the building is safe.
A news release from NHA said the Urban League of Portland and Northwest Pilot Project will also provide supportive services to relocated residents to ensure that connections to services like health care remain in place during the relocation process.