The first residents returned today (September 2) to an apartment building owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. St. Andrew’s Residence had been declared uninhabitable June 14.
The Palm Beach Post reports:
After being displaced by fire for nearly three months, 185 low-income seniors can return home to St. Andrews Residence in downtown West Palm Beach albeit with a catch. They must be prepared to leave again for up to two days once they get settled back in.
Residents have been scattered among hotels, family and friends since a June 14 fire damaged the electrical supply system of the building owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.
Bishop Peter Eaton of the Episcopal Church told residents in a memo Saturday that they will need to be prepared to vacate the building for up to two days when contractors convert from temporary power lines to the new electrical supply system.
Resident Jim Jensen said he has been told his apartment is still not ready and that the management company doesn’t know when he can move back.
The diocese and its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Peter Eaton, had received scrutiny in the second week of August from the Episcopal Cafe, Episcopal News Service and The Living Church as well as local Palm Beach press. The delay in the re-opening of St. Andrew’s Residence raised questions. Moreover, the lack of communication from the diocese to the residents was also questioned.
Those reports produced a strong reaction from readers. On Facebook, the Cafe’s report resulted in 26 comments — many highly critical.
Since that time, Bishop Eaton’s strategy changed to a controlled letter campaign. In a series of letters has kept residents and the media aware of the status of repairs and projected return date for residents. We reported on the first letter dated August 13. None of the letters acknowledged that Eaton was the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. And local press often fail to state the connection of the Episcopal Church to St. Andrew’s Residence.
There is no evidence of a dialog with the residents of St. Andrew’s.
The diocese engaged a public relations firm to handle all media inquiries. That firm has sent the Episcopal Cafe each of those letters as they were distributed to residents. We have posted the latest letter here.