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Columbia Housing's Response to the Allen Benedict Court FindingsĀ and Statement Issued by 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson


For Immediate Release
November 27, 2019
Contact: Cynthia Hardy 803-609-331


Columbia Housing's Response to the Allen Benedict Court Findings and Statement Issued by 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson


Columbia Housing issues this statement in memory of Calvin Witherspoon, Jr., and Derrick Caldwell Roper, who lost their lives as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning on January 17, 2019, at the Allen Benedict Court Public Housing community. Our deepest sympathy is with the Witherspoon and Roper families.

In the time since Derrick Caldwell Roper's and Calvin Witherspoon, Jr.'s untimely deaths, Columbia Housing has done a number of things to ensure that the January 17th tragedy never happens again. For example-In March, four new commissioners-- Anne Sinclair, James Chatfield, Georgia Mjartan, and Kara Simmons-- were appointed to the current Board. The new Board members join returning Commissioners Selena Pickens, George Green, and Ernest Cromartie, III who serve as Commission Chairman. Commissioners are tasked with setting policy for the agency and supporting the agency's executive leadership team as they implement those policies.

In addition to new Board appointments, Columbia Housing also has new leadership. After successful tenures in Aiken, SC; Toledo, OH; and Greenville, SC-Ivory Williams Mathews was selected to lead Columbia Housing-largely because of her resident-focused philosophy that is rooted in high-staff performance. In the first week of her tenure, Mathews presented a 12-month action plan to address agency challenges and elevate performance at the 85-year old affordable housing agency. Those efforts included four overarching principles: 1) improving service delivery to residents; 2) creating a climate of transparency and accountability; 3) maximizing organizational efficiencies, and 4) increasing community confidence.

Mathews efforts' were recently recognized by U. S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) who invited her to testify before Congress at the U. S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs in Washington, DC on November 7th.  Her testimony in support of Senate Bill 2160 underscored the need for a federal law requiring that CO detectors be installed in all public housing units. Her testimony can be read or viewed at

"We are currently working on a host of things to include: a partnership with the Columbia Fire Department on the implementation of fire safety education programs for our staff and residents", says Mathews. "We want to empower them with information on fire drills, smoke detectors, fire alarms and much more. Classes have already begun and a full schedule of these events can be found at In addition, we are working to improve response time for work orders and improving avenues of communications and accessibility. We've already begun the initial phases of conducting comprehensive needs assessments of our entire portfolio of housing units, and we will be introducing a redevelopment plan in the near future to include the demolition of Allen Benedict Court. We are also examining the capacity of each department to ensure maximum performance," concludes Mathews.

In August, Mathews hired Yvonda Bean as her Chief Operating Officer. A proven leader, Bean has over 20 years of progressive experience in executive leadership with affordable housing agencies in the Palmetto state, as well as in other parts of the country. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director/CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Lafayette (LHA), Louisiana where she transformed the Housing Authority from a U. S. Department Housing & Urban Development (HUD)-supervised Agency to a thriving organization with financial and staff stability.

Then, in October, Cynthia Gore joined Columbia Housing as its Director of Human Resources. Gore has more than 22 years of state government experience, most recently serving as Assistant Human Resources Director with the SC Department of Education and the SC Department of Administration. Gore has notable experience in strategic human resource planning, performance management, federal and state law compliance, policy/procedure development, training development, and management coaching.

''It's a new day at Columbia Housing," says Commission Chairman Ernest Cromartie, III. ''Ivory is a solid transformative leader. She is transparent with the Board, her follow-through and accountability is unmatched. We are confident in her ability to lead Columbia Housing forward, restore public trust and improve service delivery to our residents."

Mathews is committed to working with the residents, the Board of Commissioners and Staff, the city of Columbia, and community partners to transform Columbia Housing's service-delivery and community presence as the agency works to continue to meet the affordable housing needs of some of the area's most vulnerable citizens.



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