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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Living, a nightmare

Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2011, at 10:54 AM

The outside of the multiunit apartment was crumbling, the windows looked battered and trash lay scattered in yard.

The inside was worse.

The appliances probably hadn't been updated since appliances were invented. A rusty furnace sat awkwardly in the middle of the studio apartment. The walls were chipping, and who knows how many roaches would share my room and board with me, if I moved here. The mid-Missouri summer heat approached, and I'd need to find a window unit for the air-conditionless apartment. Lucky me, all this could be mine for a flat rate of $300 a month.

At the time, this slum seemed like my only option.

By my second week here, I discovered the issues I had relocating to Marshall were common. While covering a Marshall-Saline Development Corporation meeting, director Bill Riggins explained the lack of affordable, comfortable, temporary housing could easily sway companies away from Marshall. Having lived through the housing nightmare less than three weeks before, I couldn't agree more. Apparently, there isn't anything in Marshall for people that can't afford a house and don't qualify for section eight apartments.

Eric offered me this position on a Tuesday. The next day I started calling landlords, and Thursday I drove in from Columbia to tour the facilities. By Friday, I had to give Eric a decision. I had one day to find somewhere to live, and one day isn't enough in a place like Marshall.

For a bleak minute, I wondered if I was being high-maintenance. I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis where all houses look the same and lawns stay neatly mowed--and if they don't neighborhood associations hunt you down and fine you. Maybe the buildings I toured really weren't that bad. Perhaps that furnace in the middle of room could be covered with a sheet and a doily in the summer and overlooked in the winter. Maybe, the apartment wouldn't seem so horrifying once I moved in some of my own furniture.

Somehow, I didn't think so. Fortunately, Riggins confirmed it.

In case you haven't noticed, I took the job. Also I didn't move into any of the slums I toured that day. At the last minute, I found a woman who opened her home to me. I pay her a fraction more than I would have paid the slumlord, and I also get air conditioning, internet, satellite and a fully-furnished bedroom. I didn't have to buy a tablecloth and doily, because the furnace stays in the basement. Air conditioning in this home was not negotiable. Apparently whether I wanted it, it came included. Naturally, this didn't bother me in the slightest.

When I moved to Marshall, I didn't know anyone. The Chamber of Commerce gave me a list of landlords, but the apartment complexes here don't provide roommate matching assistance like the complexes in Columbia. In a town where everyone seems to know everyone, no one could point me in the direction of a nice, safe, affordable place to live. Fortunately, I found it myself, but other young professionals might not be so lucky.

Something needs to be done about the lack of appropriate housing. I need to relocate in a few months, and now that I'm a Marshall resident I still have no idea where I'm supposed to move. This town is my new home, and I need to live somewhere comfortable, affordable, clean and safe. I'm thrilled the Marshall-Saline Development Corporation is addressing the issue, and I hope someone finds a solution before my lease runs out. For my own sake, but mostly for Marshall's.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Welcome Maggie.

There is nothing like a newcomer for noticing the warts on the old girl's face. Those warts, I might add, that everyone else has seen for so long that they don't even notice them anymore.

Would you consider telling us what else you see wrong, as you go about your business, and your pleasure? On second thought maybe you shouldn't do that. Small towns can be rough on "strangers" who point out their flaws. ;)

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Fri, Jul 1, 2011, at 2:09 AM

Welcome to Marshall. I hope the experience gets better. I had similar problems when I first moved here from the St Louis area myself. Luckily, I had family in town and could take my time. Eventually, I found a decent house to rent that was cheaper than my lousy apartment had been. I've also enjoyed the lower crime rate, lack of traffic, fresher air, and generally just the style of living here. I do miss seeing my beloved Cardinals on a regular basis though.

-- Posted by Philemon on Fri, Jul 1, 2011, at 7:47 AM

Hang in there Missy. You have hopefully opened some eyes around here. There is also the possibility some landlords won't agree with you. Those landlords that would disagree have the nice places and are full all the time, so you wouldn't have seen them. What you had the opportunity to see are the dregs of what is available. There are people at the paper office that can steer you right. As Oklahoma Reader pointed out, those of us that live here have grown immune to what is considered by some to be the status quo.

-- Posted by red dog on Fri, Jul 1, 2011, at 2:14 PM

Same EXACT thing happened to me when I moved here.

-- Posted by KW on Sun, Jul 3, 2011, at 11:23 AM

Welcome to Marshall Maggie.

Maggie I have lived here for almost 40 years and I just went through the same thing, like you we got lucky and found a great place but only because we had a month to look.

-- Posted by Gal66 on Wed, Jul 6, 2011, at 8:35 AM

Thank you all for the welcome wishes. I'm thrilled to be here... just terrified of attempting to relocate in a few months. Yell, if you hear of anything. I may need some help.



-- Posted by Maggie Menderski on Wed, Jul 6, 2011, at 11:02 AM

I would like to welcome you as well Maggie!

As you and many other readers, I was also horrified at my prospects when I moved here nearly 2 years ago. I moved from the Kissimmee, FL area where I rented an absolutely gorgeous 2000 square foot home that was built in 2004 for $800 a month. I thought that was a lot, but our electric/water bills averaged $150 year round and we didn't pay gas or trash, plus they sprayed for mosquitoes once a week. Overall, even though I was paying more for rent in FL, the cheaper utilities more than made up the difference. It is costing much more for us to live in Marshall than it did to live in FL.

We moved here and was in for a huge shock. Thank goodness my mom and my 3 grown children all lived here so I had some time to look around. I can't believe how many houses I looked at that were $500 to $700+ a month and absolutely looked like they should be condemned. I have complained many times in this exact same way and felt like I wasn't being heard at all, so hopefully you will have better luck.

I grew up here and it was a beautiful town, but with all the slum properties it is very lacking in it's former small town beauty and pride. I did luck out after a month and found a beautiful house ($500) with a GREAT landlady who actually takes pride in her property and is wonderful to her tenants. We still pay exorbitant utility costs, but I get to see my 8 grandbabies grow up and that's priceless!!

-- Posted by SawyersMommy on Thu, Jul 7, 2011, at 5:49 PM

If you stay here long enough and decide to buy a home it will be even worse. I've lived here for 30 years and when we went to buy a house I discovered that the city of Marshall is apparently sitting on some of the most over-priced real estate in Mid-Missouri. We looked at houses that should have been condemned that were asking close to $100K and that wasn't the exception, it was the norm around here.

Also, if you don't have ancestors here, you'll never be completely accepted as a resident of Marshall by some in the community. Your children will be if they are born here.

Hint to Marshall relators and Welcome Wagon, try handing out family trees of every new resident because unless you are fluent in every Saline County/Marshall family history, you will stand out like a sore thumb in many conversations here. "You know her son who married the one girl who was the granddaughter of..."

-- Posted by inthemiddle on Tue, Jul 19, 2011, at 11:41 AM

inthemiddle: That's the case in virtually every small town, though - you have to work to integrate into the community and be a real part of it. I think my mother's done a pretty successful job after just 5 years in Marshall! As to the family trees - I grew up in the town I live in, and although my dad has been here 40-odd years, my step-mother's family has been here for generations, and so has my husband's and I STILL can't keep track of who all is related to who! And I'M related (by marriage) to plenty of them!

-- Posted by koeller77 on Tue, Jul 19, 2011, at 12:56 PM

SC not to speek for itm but here goes anyway.

Not to long after my family moved to Marshall my father was asked to join one of the local clubs in order to be a member he had to me recomended buy 2 current members and he was then the board had to approve him.

Well they would not approve him because of his last name and told him so, they thought he was part of a family with the same last name that in their words was no good.

He went on to tell them he was not related to any of the people in Marshall with the same last name and proved it with help from the 2 men that recomended him so the board reconsidered and said ok.

Well dad told them to stick their club where the sun don't shine, by the way they also lost both of the men that recomended him.

-- Posted by Gal66 on Thu, Jul 28, 2011, at 8:39 AM

I totally agree! I commute 30 min a day to avoid the local slumlords who know they dont have to up date their buildings or even bring them up to code because they know some college kid can make do. I mean how hard is it to find a slum thats better than sharing a toilet with 20 dudes?

I dont mean to say the college is the problem i meant to say that our issue is the complete lack of new residences.

those houses and appts by the hospital are nice and clean. and One needs not fear for their life/health living in one. (I did made it a year while in school)

only problem is that they are full FULL!

-- Posted by BigFatGuy on Mon, Aug 29, 2011, at 1:56 PM

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Maggie Menderski graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri in May 2011. The St. Louis native began working as a staff writer for the Democrat-News shortly after. In her Out of Ink blog, she (typically) muses about the differences between rural and suburban life.
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