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Living, a nightmarePosted 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.
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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.