Fort Worth

Facing eviction, Las Vegas Trail activist given new home to help under-served children

Abdul Chappell talks about being threatened with eviction from the Villas Del Mar Apartments on Las Vegas Trail, where he lives rent free and runs an outreach program under a one-year agreement with the previous owner. The basketball goal was recently donated to give children and adults something to do.
Abdul Chappell talks about being threatened with eviction from the Villas Del Mar Apartments on Las Vegas Trail, where he lives rent free and runs an outreach program under a one-year agreement with the previous owner. The basketball goal was recently donated to give children and adults something to do. Star-Telegram

Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project member Abdul Chappell, the facilitator of after-school programs for children at the Villas Del Mar apartments, where he is being targeted for eviction by new ownership, is receiving a helping hand to relocate.

Howard Gyler, owner of Garland-based Gyler Management Inc., said he has negotiated a deal in which he will pay one year's advance rent, nearly $11,000, for Chappell to live and run his programs at the Villas at Sierra Vista apartments, located at the southeast corner of Las Vegas Trail and Calmont Avenue.

Chappell can move in on May 9.

"We took over the Villas Del Mar when it was West Pointe Pines, and that was May 2016," Gyler said. "We threw out 107 tenants, lots of them were criminals, cleaned the place up. I’ve been cleaning places up for 40 years, I’m no rookie. We thought Abdul’s program was perfect for the community."

Chappell was granted a 30-day reprieve from possible eviction last Friday when Justice of the Peace Jacquelyn Wright ruled the new management group, San Antonio-based United Apartment Group, had not given adequate timing in their notice to vacate.

Chappell said he is grateful for Gyler's gesture, but admitted moving out of Villas Del Mar is bittersweet because of the time and effort put into establishing trusting relationships with the children in the complex, many of whom come from broken families and all from challenging, low-income households.

Villas Del Mar has more than 260 units and is home to a large youth population.

"Everybody’s cool in this except the kids at Villas Del Mar. Everybody wins except the kids," Chappell said. "We’re going to have to be the ones that look at these kids and tell them we’ve got to go. To them [the apartment management], it’s not about the kids anyway. To us, that’s all it’s about, and trying to bring resources to their parents."

Gyler managed the property prior to its February sale to Comunidad Realty Partners out of San Diego, and struck a deal with Chappell last November for him to live and run his "Build A Better Hood Foundation" out of the complex's two-story clubhouse. Chappell and former on-site manager Josh Barrad signed the one-year contract.

The agreement outlined a 24-hour service to aid residents, but because Chappell was not occupying an actual unit, there was no official tenant agreement. That fact played into Chappell's favor at the eviction hearing.

Since moving in, Chappell has transformed what was a storage unit with donated items including desks, chairs, computers, books, couches and televisions. One room upstairs was converted into a classroom where reading and art classes are taught in the afternoons, and another room includes a clothes closet for residents at the complex.

Chappell has also been known to allow victims of domestic violence and those facing homelessness to stay overnight while he steered them to appropriate social service organizations.

This was a particular bone of contention for United Apartment Group. Rodriguez argued at the hearing that such overnight visitors who do not live on the property put residents at risk.

Gyler's motivation to help Chappell was not completely altruistic. He said there was "potential litigation between buyer and seller" of the Villas Del Mar regarding Chappell's contract.

"I wanted it resolved," Gyler said. "I do things cleanly. I don't leave messes."

Gyler said he has started an effort to purchase an apartment complex on Las Vegas Trail, but did not want to disclose which one. Las Vegas Trail is stacked with low-income apartments stretching one mile from Calmont Avenue to Camp Bowie Boulevard.

Including neighboring streets, the area is estimated to have an apartment population of around 20,000.

Eviction postponed for Abdul Chappell and Build a Better Hood Foundation after Justice of the Peace Jacquelyn Wright rules he was not given an adequate notice of eviction from the Villas Del Mar apartments on Las Vegas Trail.

Jeff Caplan is an enterprise reporter for the Star-Telegram. Reach him at 817-390-7705 or on Twitter @Jeff_Caplan
  Comments