Swenson is 'depressed' since moving to his new north-side apartment, says his caretaker.
Ludell Swenson and his live-in caretaker have moved to North Sherman Avenue. Isthmus reported in late July that Swenson, who has cerebral palsy, was being forced out of the downtown apartment he loves because the building is undergoing a $1 million renovation and rents will be going up.
Caretaker Guy Swansbro emailed this week to say that he and Swenson are "still recovering" from the move, which cost $1,200, and that they intend to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over Madison Development Corporation's refusal to renew Swenson's lease. Swenson receives Section 8 housing assistance from the agency.
They have no phone service yet, but do have Internet access.
Though Swenson must use a wheelchair and can communicate only through a board affixed to his wheelchair or his computer, he has not let that stop him from tooling around town and being active in the community. That's a big reason he wanted to stay close to the central city. Also, his apartment on the corner of West Washington Avenue and Bedford Street was barrier-free, with easy access to the bathroom, shower and kitchen.
In a letter to Isthmus, Swenson's sister, who lives in Monroe, notes that Ludell, now 55, has lived in downtown Madison since he was 18. "Now it's like he is in prison, far away from the 'action.'"
After our report, a petition drive was launched on Change.org for Swenson. Directed to Madison Development Corporation, the "Let Ludell Swenson keep the apartment he loves!" petition had 2,004 signatures as of midweek -- just 46 short of the goal.
The petition organizer asks that Madison Development Corporation cancel the lease it has signed with new tenants for Swenson's old apartment. It also asks the company to pay for temporary housing while the building is being renovated and the elevator replaced.
Frank Staniszewski, executive director of MDC, says he has not received any petition regarding Swenson, who he assumes has signed a yearlong lease at his new apartment. He also notes his company cannot break its lease with its new tenants.
"That would not be legal," he says. "They don't understand contract law and obligations. That would require us to violate the contract rights of somebody else. I'm not inclined to do that."