San Jose tenants allege management kept COVID hospitalization quiet
Formerly unhoused resident Raymond J. Ramsey now leads the Second Street Tenants Association to advocate for his neighbors in the downtown San Jose supportive housing complex. Photo by Vicente Vera.

Raymond Ramsey says he never relies on his property manager to share details about other tenants—because they often don’t. But he’s baffled that he learned about a recent COVID infection in his building through the local gossip mill.

Ramsey, a former unhoused resident, moved into Santa Clara County’s first supportive housing complex, Second Street Studios in downtown San Jose, more than two years ago. He recently heard his neighbor is hospitalized for life-threatening complications brought about by COVID—news that homeless housing provider Abode Services didn’t share with its more than 100 residents until Ramsey inquired about the lack of notification.

“You have to realize who they put at risk here. It wasn’t just tenants, it’s visitors to the building,” Ramsey, who co-founded the Second Street Tenants Association, told San José Spotlight. “We have a lot of third-party contractors who work here on-site, so they’re at risk too.”

Geoffrey Morgan, president and CEO of First Community Housing which launched Second Street Studios, said there’s a possibility Ramsey was the first to catch word about the COVID-19 case and then informed Abode Services and the John Stewart Company, which manages the property.

“I don’t think this is a major scandal. The fact of the matter is as soon as the folks at John Stewart were made aware of the infection, they took action to put up flyers and notify residents,” Morgan told San José Spotlight. “I don’t know who told who first, but swift action was taken as soon as it came to their attention.”

When Ramsey sent an email to Abode Services on Aug. 26 concerning the COVID-19 infection of a tenant, flyers began appearing on doors and bulletin boards.

The flyers warn tenants to take extra health precautions because a fellow tenant was “diagnosed” with COVID-19.

Second Street Tenants Association co-founder Raymond J. Ramsey points out what he describes as an unruly encampment across from his apartment building. Photo by Vicente Vera.

While the Abode Services warning is undated, the John Stewart Company notification is dated Aug. 25. Neither organization returned multiple requests for comment regarding Ramsey’s claims and when the groups became aware of the positive infection.

Joy Jones, Abode Services’ vice president of programs in the county, responded to Ramsey’s inquiries through email on Aug. 27.

“The Second Street Studios team learned of a COVID positive case in the building and have since followed the protocols outlined in the COVID-19 Prevention Plan for the property,” Jones said. “Note this plan is updated regularly and follows the recommendations from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).”

Morgan said the identity of the hospitalized tenant cannot be revealed due to patient privacy laws. This could explain how Ramsey might have known about the situation before management.

Tenant Sal Sanchez said he found out about the positive COVID infection on Aug. 20 through his wife, who said the infected tenant hadn’t come home at the end of one day. Sanchez said one of his wife’s friends was on the phone with the infected tenant, who said she was being treated at the hospital for the Delta variant. The tenant has yet to return from the hospital.

“She’s in a medically induced coma now. Yeah, it got worse,” Sanchez told San José Spotlight. “And management won’t tell us anything. Absolutely nothing.”

Management offered COVID-19 testing to tenants through a temporary clinic in the building last month, but that ended by the time they disclosed the recent infection.

Ramsey said it’s just another example of building owners and service providers failing to look out for the wellbeing of low-income tenants, as he and Sanchez continue to call for more transparency and open lines of communication.

The apartment complex for formerly homeless residents has faced controversy since it opened two years ago. The tenants last year complained about unfair rules, such as not allowing overnight guests, and unreasonable threats of eviction, including a whopping 430 lease violations handed out in 10 months. Residents also say they were promised amenities such as a community garden and workout rooms — but those promises fell through.

“There’s no community here and there’s no law and order. You can’t heal or advance without that,” Sanchez said. “Management doesn’t understand that we’ve been out there in our bodies fighting the elements. When we come here, we expect treatment—because this is where your body’s going to heal.”

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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