Featured photo: On Jan. 23, 2024, a fourth floor apartment in Winston-Salem’s Crystal Towers caught fire. (photo by Gale Melcher)

Crystal Towers resident Michael Douglas is continuing to advocate for himself and other residents of the city’s low-income high rise for seniors.

During the public comment period at Monday’s city council meeting, Douglas and others brought up unsafe conditions in their living spaces.

“I sit here and I listen to all these people come up here and complain about things,” Douglas said. “It’s because things in this world aren’t right.”

Douglas has been a vocal advocate for himself and others who live in Crystal Towers. Last year, he helped organize a health fair for the building’s residents.

Resident Michael Douglas helped organize the health fair that took place at Crystal Towers. (photo by Gale Melcher)

Douglas is currently trying to get a seat on the board of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem. The housing authority’s board of commissioners makes decisions about buildings they own such as Crystal Towers. 

According to state law, housing authority boards cannot have less than five or more than nine commissioners. Commissioners are appointed by the mayor, and the board is currently filled. However, the next commissioner’s term that is set to expire is board chair Andrew Perkins’, which ends on Sept. 30, 2024, per an email obtained by TCB from HAWS’s legal services director Alex Boston. Commissioners are limited to two terms; Perkins is in his second term.

Residents at Healy Towers, another one of HAWS’s public-housing buildings, also want Douglas to have a seat on the board. 

“We know that he will speak on our behalf because he lives there, he acts like we do, he thinks like we do, and he will serve us rather than have someone who [does] not know us,” explained Healy Towers resident Edith Chisholm.

Earlier this year, Chisholm told TCB that she doesn’t feel heard by building management and maintenance workers. She also noted that the building has bedbugs. 

“My biggest concern is how we are treated,” Chisholm said. “We’re not treated with respect, dignity…. It’s the same thing at Crystal Towers.”

“We demand to have someone to sit on that board who is going to look out for our best interest,” Chisholm added on Monday.

Mayor Allen Joines responded to Chisholm, saying that City Attorney Angela Carmon had looked into appointing two ex-officio members to the board, but that they could not find a statute authorizing them to do so.

“What we’re going to do is wait for a vacancy and I assure you I’ll fully consider the appointment at that time,” Joines concluded.

Chisholm also issued a warning to city leaders, saying, “If these things are not acted upon, we will go to the media and elsewhere to make sure that we get their attention and we get what we need — what we deserve by the federal government.”

To conclude his address on Monday, Douglas said, “You folks have the ability to change some things, and all you’re doing is lip service. You’re not doing anything. Act upon the things that need to be done.” He added, “Take some initiative. Grow some balls,” before walking away.

In an interview with TCB, Douglas noted that he thinks some city leaders have become “complacent” because they’ve already won their primary elections and many are running unopposed in the general election. Douglas also hinted at running as a write-in candidate against Joines.

To further ensure tenant rights, residents of Crystal Towers will hold an election to form a new residents’ council. They’ll start by hosting a candidate forum on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the first floor lobby of the building. Winston-Salem State University’s Sociology Department will be conducting the election, Dr. Dan Rose confirmed to TCB.

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