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Featured photo: Michael Douglas sits outside of Crystal Towers (photo by Gale Melcher)
Longtime Crystal Towers resident and activist Michael Douglas has his sights set on the soon-to-be-vacant Northwest Ward city council seat. In January, incumbent councilmember Jeff MacIntosh told Triad City Beat that he will not seek reelection in 2024, saying that he hoped announcing early would “bring lots of candidates out of the woodwork to think about running.” MacIntosh added, “It’s a difficult job, it takes some time to figure out whether or not you’re interested in doing it.”
Within the last few years, living conditions have significantly deteriorated at Crystal Towers, the 201-unit high-rise that houses elderly and disabled residents. It’s owned and managed by the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem. For years, the building has been troubled by malfunctioning elevators, leaky laundry facilities and maintenance needs. Asbestos was found in the floor tiles in May. At one point, a plague of bed bugs took up residence in the building.
Now, thanks to the activism of residents such as Douglas, change is in the making. The lobby has been renovated and new elevators are being installed.
Being an activist informs Douglas on how he might approach being a city representative.
“One of the major problems that we have in society today is the cost of housing,” he told TCB.
Bringing more attention to the issue is one of the main reasons why he’s running for office, he said.
Things should be “a little bit more fair” and living conditions should be better for people, Douglas said. And he feels he has a personal responsibility to help make this happen. “It’s my job to try to do that,” he said.
“I love Winston-Salem. I have been around the world — literally — but this is the only place that I feel like is home,” Douglas reminisced.
He continued, “I just want to make it better. I want to make it easier for the people around me.”
Douglas told TCB over the summer that he was working to bring social services to the building’s residents. With help from Forsyth County, Douglas has arranged for a resources event to come to the building on Nov. 29 from 2-4 p.m. Services from the Public Health Department, the Department of Social Services, Behavioral Health Services and the Mobile Health Clinic will be available on site at 625 W. Sixth St.
East Carolina School of Dental Medicine will be there, too.
“We’ve got a lot of mental health issues with individuals that live in the building, a lot of people that don’t know where to go for assistance with health issues,” Douglas pointed out.
This initial event will help them figure out “exactly what the needs are so they can better cater it for the next ones.”
“We’re gonna try to do this at least twice a month,” he said.
Douglas wants these services to reach as many people as possible, saying that the event is “not just for people in the building, this is for the community.”
Despite the building’s challenges, Douglas said that he is “so blessed” to live there.
But he wants to “make it better than it was when [he] found it.”
Douglas moved to the city when he was five years old and grew up in Skyland Park.
“My father used to be a disk jockey for the old WAAA African American AM radio station,” Douglas said, adding, “My mother supported me and my brother by being a secretary at the Housing Authority [of Winston-Salem].”
Additionally, Douglas is a veteran of the United States Navy and worked for the U.S. Postal Service and as a car salesman for many years.
“I got a sense of duty and responsibility from both of my parents. They’re the ones that told me that if you step into a situation, and it ain’t the best situation, you don’t have to leave it like you found it,” he said.