DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - As smoke and fire grew inside the Crossings at Henderson Mill Apartments on September 17, Taria McKinney scrambled outside, but ran back in when she realized none of her neighbors had left their apartments.
"I'm placing the 911 call with one hand and banging on doors with the other hand. I couldn't get all the way to the top floor so I started throwing rocks at the windows and screamed to wake people up," McKinney told FOX 5's Portia Bruner.
McKinney escaped unharmed with only a few items including a family Bible. But she said she wasn't worried about all that she lost, because she thought she, like the other residents who lost everything, would get a new apartment and a stipend. A few days later, McKinney said she was stunned to learn she was the only resident who would not get a new place or a stipend.
"Everyone was getting keys so I thought I was next and then they said they didn't have any one bedroom at the Crossings or at any of their other properties in the area. Then they said I couldn't have the stipend because I wasn't a resident anymore... like this is my fault. It's just really disheartening to have something like this happen," said the 30 year old who just moved to Atlanta complex from Wisconsin a year ago.
According to McKinney, a rental office manager told her she could not have a larger apartment for the same rent, but she believes other residents with families were allow to upgrade without paying the difference in rent.
Resident John Speedy said the complex relocated him into a comparably sized apartment within days of the fire and provided a stipend to help with expenses.
"This complex was very good to us and to the other five families that were displaced, so I can't understand how she--of all people--wouldn't get a new apartment as well. I'm convinced she's the reason why I'm even alive," Speedy told Bruner standing in front of his new apartment.
The front door of the leasing office was locked when we stopped by for an explanation. By phone, a woman told Bruner to call corporate headquarters. Those calls have not been returned.
"I don't understand. They promised me an apartment. They reassured all of us. I even asked if I did something wrong, was it something from my rental history. They just said, 'No, sorry. We can't help you' and just like that, I'm homeless," said McKinney.
On Thursday evening, FOX 5 Atlanta received a statement from S&S Property Management, Tammy Ray, VP of Property Management said, "Ms. McKinney has been made the same offer as everyone else who was displaced. Unfortunately, she owes the property a large past due balance. We have applied the $2,000 stipend to her past due balance. She now needs to pay the remaining past due balance on her account and we will transfer her into another unit."