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Air Force veteran Samantha Frost of Sutherlin stands near the entrance of Orchard Knoll housing project in Roseburg on Friday. Frost, a former resident of Orchard Knoll, claims she faced retaliation from management staff of the housing project after reporting occurrences of prostitution and illegal drug use.

Prostitutes naked in the halls, rampant and obvious drug use, whiskey bottles in the trash.

Those are among the descriptions given by some veterans who are current or former tenants at Orchard Knoll, a low-income housing project on the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus. Two said after they complained to management about the problems, they were handed eviction notices.

Though it’s on the VA campus, Orchard Knoll is owned by the Housing Authority of Douglas County, or HADCO, an independent government body that provides low-income housing at several locations around the county. Orchard Knoll gives preference to veterans who wish to be tenants there. It’s short-term housing. Tenants are limited to a two-year stay and pay low rent for their apartments. HADCO asserts Orchard Knoll is drug and alcohol free.

Samantha Frost, a veteran who moved out of Orchard Knoll in December, disagrees.

Frost is a Roseburg High School graduate who served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2000 in Oman. After leaving the Air Force, Frost went to school in Honolulu and worked in forensic science in several states before family problems brought her back to Roseburg. She was in a car accident about a year ago and lived at the VA’s rehabilitation center for awhile before getting a spot at Orchard Knoll.

Frost said her troubles with management at Orchard Knoll began shortly after she moved there on April 19. In that first week, she complained her apartment had not been properly cleaned. On April 26, she received a “14/30” notice threatening eviction.

The notice stated that her cat had been loose in the halls and that “clumps of cat hair and debris” had accumulated in the hall. Frost asserts the hair came from a dog that was often loose in the hallways.

The “14/30” gave her 14 days to correct the alleged cat problem, or she would be evicted in 30 days.

Frost was allowed to stay, but it wasn’t long before she developed more serious concerns.

She said she observed residents who were visibly intoxicated and on drugs. She also came to the conclusion that several suspicious women who frequented the place were not residents but prostitutes, and that one of the tenants was their pimp.

Frost said when she contacted police about that, they told her to obtain some evidence. So she started taking pictures and asking questions.

The management’s response was to issue her another “14/30” eviction threat. This time, the eviction notice accused Frost of harassing other tenants, and an email exchange between HADCO Director Janeal Kohler and Frost makes it clear that the man Frost was accused of harassing is the same person she suspected was a pimp. There’s no suggestion in the exchange that Kohler viewed the man in the same way.

In that same post-eviction notice email string, Frost urged Kohler to check the facility’s camera recordings over a weekend in July. Here’s how Frost described her own observations about how some tenants were behaving that weekend:

“... there was dumpster diving, shirt and shoes removed, staring at the wall, calling the police on themselves, carrying a suitcase and boots around, passing [out], laying on the floor, praying on the floor, coming through the kitchen door....[The alleged pimp] was definitely methed out going in and out and in and out of different doors all weekend long. There is even blood on the glass on the front door. This place was a drug mecca over the weekend ...,” Frost wrote.

Frost told The News-Review she felt the management was protecting druggies and pimps while persecuting her — a law-abiding, sober veteran tenant. To Frost, that seemed entirely backward. It also seemed like retaliation.

Frost said the illegal activity taking place at Orchard Knoll over the months she lived there was blatant, and several tenants informed managers about it.

Frost confronted one of the alleged prostitutes, who she said admitted she had sex with tenants for money. Another threatened her, Frost said.

She said some of the prostitutes were so well known that the tenants had nicknames for them like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Bigfoot.” She said one of the tenants told her he was harassed by a prostitute who was naked outside his door.

Frost said the prostitutes weren’t residents, but they’d go from room to room. She said she once observed a tenant point to a woman accompanying another tenant, and say, “Hey am I going to have her later on? Can I have her next?” The other tenant said he’d bring her.

The News-Review spoke with other former Orchard Knoll residents who echoed Frost’s concerns about prostitution and drug and alcohol use there. They described seeing prostitutes come in. They said some residents appeared to be on drugs while others reeked of alcohol, and whiskey bottles were left in the communal trash. And they said management looked the other way, even after they complained.

Ellsworth Moore, a 73-year-old who said he is a retired Navy Seal, joined Frost in her quest to rid Orchard Knoll of its alleged criminal element. He said he left multiple notes under the onsite manager’s door about the things he observed, and one on a troublesome tenant’s car. Moore told The News-Review the effort got him an eviction notice.

“I got kicked out because I was trying to get the bad apples out of there,” he said.

After he was threatened with eviction, he moved out. He was basically homeless at that point, he said. When we contacted him, he was living with his sister. Moore has post-traumatic stress disorder, which he said he’s been fighting since his service during the Vietnam War.

The people at the housing authority, he said, don’t “have an inkling” what he’s been through.

“I’m not going to live like that,” he said of his stay at Orchard Knoll. “Drugs, alcohol, I don’t drink and I don’t take drugs. I don’t want to be around it. In a roundabout way they did me a favor by evicting me because I don’t want to live in that kind of atmosphere.”

Ellsworth said he believes his efforts helped remove some of the “bad apples” he mentioned.

The facility has a new onsite manager, and current tenants said they’re hopeful about her efforts. The man Frost alleged was a pimp is no longer living there.

A woman who still lives at Orchard Knoll told The News-Review she moved there after a relative died, because she could not afford the rent at other places. At first, she was thrilled to have a place to live, but as the problems there became more apparent her stress began to build. The woman, who is a senior and Army veteran, feared retaliation and asked that we not publish her name.

“I have post-traumatic stress disorder and I’ve had more episodes since I’ve been in this building than I’ve had since I was diagnosed,” she said.

She confirmed that drugs, alcohol and prostitution have been problems at Orchard Knoll. She first realized there was a problem when she entered the community room one evening to find two old veterans sitting there. One had a joint in his cowboy hat and offered her a smoke, while the other said he had some whiskey and asked if she wanted to get drunk.

She has come to believe that drug and alcohol use happens there every day. She has also seen prostitutes coming into the building and spoken to a male friend who had been propositioned by them and who had observed one running naked down the hallway.

“I noticed that they were here what seemed like all weekend long and then they were gone. They were like vampires, you’d see them at night and then they’d be gone,” she said.

She last saw the “vampires” two weeks ago, she said.

Though the problems aren’t yet solved, the woman said she thinks the new manager is trying to clean up the place and was checking on New Year’s Eve to see if tenants were drunk when they entered the building.

Frost moved out Dec. 2, and now lives in a privately-run apartment complex in Sutherlin. She’s contacted an attorney and hopes to file a lawsuit against HADCO. She said the seven months she spent at Orchard Knoll were the most miserable of her life. She definitely did not feel it was the kind of experience that veterans deserve.

“On the very front of Orchard Knoll it says ‘Proudly Welcoming Veterans.’ Yeah right, proudly serving veterans. You’re not. You’re doing us wrong,” she said.

The News-Review contacted Kohler, the HADCO director, who declined an interview and did not directly respond to specific questions sent via email. Instead, she issued a three-paragraph statement. The first explained the history and governance of HADCO, which was formed in 1944 and is run by an independent board, whose five members are appointed by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

In our emailed questions, we had asked Kohler if she thought Orchard Knoll has problems with drugs and prostitution. She didn’t answer directly, but her statement asserted it “is an alcohol and drug free transitional housing program that gives a preference to veterans and individuals with supportive services.” The statement also said the staff is “committed to following all regulations such as Fair Housing and Oregon State Tenant Law and enforcing the lease agreement fair and consistently.”

It said Kohler could not “speak to specific cases due to confidentiality restrictions.”

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at 541-957-4213 or ccegavske@nrtoday.com.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4213 or by email at ccegavske@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

(18) comments

Mogie

I would like to know how someone who is low income can afford drugs and hookers? Logically you can conclude they must be doing something illegal to buy those things. If it walks like a duck it is usually a duck.

pwchoices

What this women should have done is have video evidence of what she's is encountering at the complex. Give that to the local media and let them run with it. Hoping that some bureaucrat in some agency is going to get involved isn't going to happen without evidence. Currently the evidence is "She said, he said."

Mogie

Look at all the people that have been effected by claims of sexual misconduct. The victims weren't told them should have video taped the event. Some times people don't always do the best thing when they are put in bad situations. There has to be other ways to support these allegations.

DanGrover

With the exception of the naked person in the hallway, if the other people aren't bothering you, why do you care what they do? Are they keeping you awake? Are they harassing you? Are they stealing from you? How do you know they were on meth? Did you give them a UA?

chicagomike

Good dialogue here that raises more questions. There is a difference between state and federal laws and who enforces/upholds these laws. I will give 2 examples.
At the entrance to the Roseburg VA, the federal laws about dangerous weapons being illegal on VA property is posted at the entrance. State law contradicts Federal Law in that open carry and conceal carry with permit are legal within the state of Oregon. The VA has confirmed to me in writing that federal laws on VA property apply/supercede state laws.
With regards to making audio recordings of conversations, the state law requires that consent be granted by all parties being recorded. The federal law which is applicable on VA property only requires one party to consent to making that recording.
What federal laws are applicable with regards to what has happened at Orchard Knolls?

BetsyC

HADCO is its own separate public entity that the county has nothing to do with re oversight. The county's limited role is that of appointing the HADCO Commissioners.

Public Housing Authorities (PHA) are unique public entities. Although they must follow various state laws that apply to pubic entities in Oregon, a lot of the oversight is the federal Department of Housing & Urban Development.

People who live in publicly funded housing on public property have due process rights. This requires that there be actual proof that something illegal or that violates their rules is going on. Proof is not necessarily just your neighbor's (or even neighbors') complaints. Since it is the only transitional housing we really have and takes people who come literally off the streets, it has many challenges for sure. However that does not mean the rights of all residents should not be honored but that is a tough balance to achieve there.

Amcconne

SOLUTION⬇
Boards and committees in Douglas County Government in general need to strive to do their best to be transparent and inclusive and I am enquiring the process of selection of appointed committee members, their outreach and public relations effort in recruiting these appointees, and if there are any evaluation processes for reappointment.

This is how your local government works when it comes to advisory committees and commissions.

BetsyC

HADCO is not county advisory committees or boards. They are not under the county. The only authority the county has is in the appointment process, which is set out in Oregon state law.

There are two ways PHA are created in Oregon. https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/456.095
One is where the city or county operates it, another, like ours where it operates separately.

City and county, as well as joint efforts, can have housing authorities

Amcconne

HOW A VETERAN'S WHISTLEBLOWER STORY ABOUT PROSTITUTION RELATES TO COUNTY GOVERNMENT

Educational Background⬇
Advisory Boards and Commissions are a way for government to connect with citizens. These volunteer board/committee/commission members are to represent the citizens, get public input, and recommend things to the Board of County Commissioners for approval.

The Board of County Commissioners has the authority to appoint, remove, or reappoint these members through the Douglas County charter.

There are many commissions and advisory boards the County Commissioners have authority over including the solid waste committee, the industrial development board, and the Housing Authority of Douglas County.

BetsyC

HADCO is not under the authority of the county.

Mogie

This is unacceptable for any facility let alone one supposedly government run. The VA and Oak Knolls should be ashamed of this. If this proves to be true I hope these former tenants sue the snot out of them. Nobody should live like that.

chicagomike

The common theme here, as with the story about Director Dave Whitmer pushing out the DAV ride co-ordinator as well as my experience with Mr. Whitmer, is that if you speak out about problems with the VA in Roseburg, you will be subject to retaliation.

This is the toxic culture Dave Whitmer was sent to fix.

Congressman DeFazio, Senator Merkley, the toxic culture at the Roseburg VA is alive and well.

skidd

The VA doesn’t own Orchard Knolls. This is property managed by the county housing authority. Direct your comments to your county commissioners.

chicagomike

@ skidd, Orchard knolls is on the VA Campus, drugs and alcohol abuse, prostitution and retaliation against Veterans who complain about this very much falls within the purview of VA officials. What did did the VA have to say about this when it was brought to their attention? We've heard here from Veterans that have been affected by this.

skidd

The land was at one time part of the VA property, but given to the county housing authority 20 years ago. The VA police have no jurisdiction there and can not arrest anyone suspected of these activities. This is a matter for local police and the county commission.

BetsyC

It would fall under the purview of the HADCO Board of Commissioners, the VA, as well as Oregon Housing & Community Development (financing of project and has some oversight), as well as ultimately HUD.

Mogie

But it is on their property so they do have some responsibility here if this has been brought to their attention. Passing the buck doesn't cut it and neither does playing dumb.

BetsyC

The property authorities here are both Housing Authority of Douglas County and the VA. There is a lease agreement between HADCO & the VA re the operation of Orchard Knoll.

County Commissioners appoint the HADCO Commissioners (they can also remove them), but they are not going to do that unless HADCO Commssioners are not doing their job.

I saw no mention that anyone has gone to the HADCO Board about concerns. They should. However since this involves confidentially issues, it is not likely anyone is going to get specific info about what is going on with any of the tenants involved.

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