By Egan Millard
Episcopal News Service
St. Andrews Residence, a waterfront high-rise in West Palm Beach, Florida, run by the Diocese of Southeast Florida as affordable housing for seniors, has been uninhabitable since mid-June after a series of dangerous incidents. All 177 residents were forced to leave indefinitely and most of them have been living in hotel rooms paid for by the St. Andrews board, which has committed to paying for residents’ rooms and meals through Aug. 21, but it’s unclear whether the board will continue to pay for their accommodations until the building is repaired.
The 15-story building was purchased in 2009 by St. Andrews Residence of the Diocese of Southeast Florida Inc., a nonprofit corporation created by the diocese, which rents the building under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 202 program for subsidized housing for people over age 62. SPM, a firm based in Birmingham, Alabama, manages the property and did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The building is situated directly on the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown West Palm Beach, between a waterfront amphitheater park and the Trump Plaza condo towers. It advertises amenities like a fitness center, beauty shop, library and community dining room.
But St. Andrews has been plagued with problems in recent years, including three instances of electrical malfunctions causing smoke or flames. Residents told The Palm Beach Post the building has pervasive black mold, which has damaged furniture and clothing, and that its elevators don’t work properly. However, the Rev. Paul Rasmus – chair of the building’s operating committee – told local NBC affiliate station WPTV that he thinks there is “very little, if any” mold. Rasmus retired as rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake Worth, just south of West Palm Beach, in June 2019.
Questions addressed to the diocese and Bishop Peter Eaton were referred to Aimee Adler Cooke, a communications consultant. When asked by Episcopal News Service why the dangerous conditions reported by local media outlets persisted for so long, Adler Cooke said, “We aren’t responding to the accuracy or inaccuracy of media stories.”