Senior residents still live in GW residence halls

Welcome to your residence hall. Your neighbors to one side are sophomores from the East Coast.

Your neighbor to the other side?

For some GW students it’s an elderly woman who speaks with an eastern European accent, an aged ex-Olympian or maybe even a retired nurse who worked in the GW Hospital.

This situation is familiar to some residents of The Schenley, Aston Hall and Munson Hall, which are occupied by original residents who remain in the buildings from the days before GW assumed control of them.

Munson Hall has one non-student, The Schenley has two and Aston Hall houses nine non-students.

Under D.C. law, anybody in an apartment has a right to stay there forever, as long as they pay their rent, said Linda Schutjer, associate general counsel for the University. Schutjer said the University can only evict residents if they violate their leases.

Schutjer said the majority of the non-student population in the residence halls includes senior citizens – a factor that contributes to their reluctance to find a new place to live, GW officials said.

It’s not unusual to see people who’ve been there for 20-plus years, Schutjer said.

Residents may also be reluctant to leave relatively cheap living, Schutjer said.

Rent in the three buildings is controlled under D.C. law, allowing permanent residents to stay for an inexpensive price.

Schutjer said the tenants of the Schenley can remain in their apartments for about $300 a month.

The rents are just nothing, Schutjer said. It’s hard for them to reproduce that anywhere.

But Aston Hall resident Olga Arango said she is ready to leave her home. Affectionately called Miss Olga by some of her student neighbors, Arango said she believes she has lived in the building for too many years.

It’s been a fun experience, a good experience, she said of her time with the students. (The University) doesn’t want us here, they need room for the students.

GW officials said the University will not force permanent residents out of their homes.

President Trachtenberg’s position is we’re not going to displace people, Schutjer said. You’ve been there so long, you just stay and be happy.

Arango’s sixth-floor neighbors said they were surprised when they learned who was living in their building.

I’d hate it, I wouldn’t stay here if I was older, sophomore Laura Moore said. You have to deal with parties and all that (stuff).

Junior Giselle Hardy said she sympathized with the older residents.

It’s hard to find off-campus housing, Hardy said. If you’re settled, why go through that again?

Schutjer said there have been several tenant complaints regarding students in Aston Hall, but she has not heard of any complaints at other buildings.

Residents of the mixed communities said they haven’t experienced any problems so far.

Some (tenants) are excited we’re here, sophomore Tejal Patel said.

Maybe they stay to keep in touch with their youthful side, sophomore Aston resident Ben McDonald said.

Students and staff said they see some older residents passing time in J Street and routinely reading The Hatchet on benches outside their building.

Another permanent resident, Eddie, lives in The Schenley. GW administrators said they believe he was an Olympic cyclist many years ago.

He likes GW students and likes being near campus, said Andrew Sonn, associate director of Housing Services.

Sophomore Tamara O’Neil, who lives in The Schenley, said she runs into Eddie on a regular basis.

He enjoys talking to GW students and likes being part of the community, she said. Everyone I’ve talked to doesn’t have a problem with him.

Unlike Arango, Eddie shows no signs of leaving GW’s campus soon, according to students.

This is (Eddie’s) home, he likes living here and doesn’t want to move, O’Neil said.

Students and administrators said the permanent residents on campus do not pose security risks.

If anyone caused a problem, we would evict them, Schutjer said.

She said most of the tenants cause little worry to the community because of their old age.

I’m not really scared about this lady taking my stuff, McDonald said about his neighbor.

At least one permanent resident has caused problems in the past, Schutjer said.

Schutjer said GW had a problem with a man referred to as the Naked Gardner years ago.

This Schenley resident occasionally forgot to put his pants on and once tried to plant a tomato garden in the gravel behind the building several years ago. He has since moved out, she said.

Years ago a student was accidentally assigned to the Munson room that is inhabited by a permanent resident.

That elderly resident lives in Munson today and occasionally brings baked goods to the hospital, Sonn said. Students said they think she used to work for the GW Hospital.

Although permanent residents will probably not live in University buildings forever, they do help recall an age of neighborhood heterogeneity before GW encompassed the entire area.

These individuals remind me of people from a different era, Sonn said. But they are important to the history of Foggy Bottom.

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