Apartment management stands firm on Las Vegas Trail activist, gives 30 days to vacate

, the member who actually lives in the west Fort Worth community and provides daily after-school reading classes and other programs for children living at the , is being threatened with eviction by the complex‘s new management group.

“They told me we don’t need your services any longer, our clients don’t benefit from your services,” Chappell said. “They had in their minds ‘you need to go.‘ I told them to talk to my lawyer.”

Last November, Chappell, 44, signed a one-year contract with the apartment‘s former management group allowing him to live on premises in the previously empty two-story storage unit and establish a base to run youth reading and art classes, adult community outreach programs, a donation closet, food pantry and provide aid to homeless and displaced individuals.

Within a couple of months, Chappell transformed the storage unit into a virtual clubhouse downstairs with couches and two televisions and an upstairs that includes a classroom with desks, chairs, a whiteboard and all the decorative trappings of an elementary school classroom. The room next to it serves as a clothes closet with racks of adult and children‘s clothes.

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All the furnishings and clothes were acquired through partnerships Chappell established and from donations.

“This is critical. What‘s he‘s doing here is critical,” said Melissa McCrea, who lives in the Western Hills North neighborhood and volunteers with some of Chappell‘s projects.

‘Changing the mindset‘

Several months ago, the Villas Del Mar apartments were sold to a buyer in San Diego named Santiago Rivera Torres. He did not return messages and is said to have forwarded messages to Tim Settles, managing partner of the San Antonio-based , which is overseeing the property and on its website is marketing the downtrodden .

Reached by phone Wednesday, Settles said Chappell is in violation of the terms of the contract by living in the storage unit and also suggested that Chappell is not actually offering the after-school programs he says he is for the children who reside in the complex.

“The reason why we‘re stopping the service … the services he’s alleging he’s offering are not being offered,” said Settles, who acknowledged he has never visited the Villas Del Mar apartments. He is using this as his home. It is not an apartment. It is a clubhouse and a storage unit.”

Settles said he spoke to Chappell last week to work out an exit strategy. He said he gave Chappell 30 days to vacate the property.

“He clearly doesn’t want to leave,” Settles said. “This is something my client, given the situation with him living there, it’s just not going to work. We’re going to continue to process the necessary paperwork because he is in violation of the agreement. I tried to talk to him and handle it in a manner between two gentlemen. The owner‘s position is it‘s not a contract that is being honored by him.”

On Tuesday, two managers on duty in the Villas Del Mar offices refused to comment about Chappell‘s status. One, who would not divulge her name, said Chappell puts residents at risk of harm by allowing homeless people and others to occasionally take shelter in the unit.

Josh Barrad of the former management group, Gyler Management, signed the one-year agreement with Chappell. He said he cautioned Chappell that allowing people, particularly homeless people, however well-intentioned, to stay overnight might be frowned upon by the new management. But he said Chappell is providing necessary services for the apartment‘s residents.

The “Facility Occupancy & Service Agreement” signed by Chappell and Barrad states that the apartment complex will allow Chappell “exclusive use of the premises for the duration of the term agreed upon with sole use of the facility” and also allows for the “orientation for the homeless and displaced.”

“Obviously, I am a big fan of the work he is doing. I spearheaded the effort to get him in there,” Barrad said. “Bringing a sense of community is important to changing the mindset on Las Vegas Trail, so bringing in youth programs and a safe place for kids is very worthwhile.”

‘Particularly encouraging‘

, known as LVT Rise, is the brainchild of and is overseen by CEO . It‘s a partnership of private companies, human service organizations and government agencies aligned to improve the lives of residents in the impoverished and long-neglected neighborhood.

Chappell grew up on Las Vegas Trail, became involved in gang life as a teen and spent several stints in prison totaling 21 years. Since his release four years ago, he has dedicated his life to delivering resources to the area‘s underserved residents through his and Comprehensive Community Solutions Inc.

Chappell receives a small amount of funding from LVT Rise while hoping to one day secure a larger portion to expand his programs.

“It’s not enough for him to live on, but we‘re trying to fund his service and ministry that he’s doing over there,” Byrd said. “His after-school stuff is particularly encouraging.”

‘Doing stuff for the community‘

Along with reading and arts classes for children, Chappell provides the use of computers and hosts Narcotics Anonymous recovery meetings and a women’s empowerment class, among other programs. He is working in conjunction with Goodwill to bring in job training and hopes to begin a GED course and a Spanish class.

Three weeks ago, Chappell hosted a cookout for the apartment‘s residents that included the erection of a donated basketball goal that instantly drew children to the less-than-ideal gravelly courtyard in front of Chappell‘s storage unit to shoot hoops. It was a simple endeavor but a popular one.

“We don’t have a lot of things to do, activities, and we just want to get more activities so a lot more people could come outside. A lot of people don’t come outside on a daily basis,” said 16-year-old Villas Del Mar resident Ro‘Mello Fowlin. “He’s trying to build the neighborhood back, help us get more resources and all that. A lot of people haven’t been helping.

“When he came here [to Villas Del Mar], he let me know that he’s going to be over here doing stuff for the community,” Fowlin said.

Chappell is determined to remain at Villas Del Mar. On Wednesday, he invited residents to a meeting to better understand their rights as tenants. Concern has spread throughout the complex that leases are going to go up and the current all-bills-paid policy will be eliminated.

One of the on-location managers, who identified herself only as Sylvia, confirmed both claims.

Jeff Caplan is an enterprise reporter for the Star-Telegram. Reach him at or on Twitter