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Family remains in 'unfit' Harrisburg house days later

Tenants insist they have no options

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A week ago, code enforcement found a family living in filth in the rental house at 223 Eve St. and condemned it for occupancy, ordering everyone out until landlord John B. Weigle Jr. makes structural repairs.

The house at 223 Eve St. in Augusta has been ordered vacated after inspectors determined it is unfit for human habitation. Tenants have stayed, saying they have nowhere else to go.  Michael Holahan/File
Michael Holahan/File
The house at 223 Eve St. in Augusta has been ordered vacated after inspectors determined it is unfit for human habitation. Tenants have stayed, saying they have nowhere else to go.

It was hard to tell that on Monday. The front porch was still crowded with people, the rooms inside still crammed with clothes, furniture and junk. A red-lettered notice remained tacked by the front door declaring the premises "unfit for human habitation," but it no more kept people away than the lack of power or running water.

Tenant Rebecca Tankersley and her family have barely begun packing. Her sister, Willie Bell, says it's because they have nowhere to go. They're broke; most of them suffer health or mental problems; and they have nowhere to turn, she said.

Tankersley suffers from pancreatitis and diabetes, and a heart attack last month kept her in the hospital for weeks, putting her behind on utility bills, her sister said.

City inspectors, checking out a report of a power cord running from that house into another two doors down, came by Sept. 21 and found jars of urine inside, a bag of feces and more feces and buckets of urine in the backyard.

The humiliation and the stress of losing her home led to vomiting and a physical breakdown Monday, and Tankersley spent the day in the University Hospital emergency room, Bell said.

"With this situation and her health, that can cause anyone to go into a trauma stage," said Bell, who was among the half-dozen people on the porch. "After all these years, everything's coming down on her at one time. It's a very stressful situation."

Tankersley, 53, took on six grandchildren when her daughter died of hepatitis C in 2002, Bell said. Three years later, the family moved into Weigle's bungalow at 223 Eve St. in Harrisburg, paying $550 a month.

Three grandsons, ages 21, 16, and 15, still live there. The oldest two have mental disorders, and Tankersley has been surviving off their Social Security checks, Bell said. The youngest one has been in and out of trouble with the Department of Juvenile Justice and was recently arrested for shoplifting a pair of shoes.

Tankersley also has two disabled brothers living with her, one with a broken hip and shoulder, the other with prostate cancer and bronchitis.

Bell denied allegations by mayoral candidate and neighborhood association president Lori Davis that the residence is a drug house. Davis said she had seen men milling around out front and cars with distant license plates coming and going.

"We have a lot of friends, and we have a large family," Bell said. "And we love everyone and everyone loves us."

Bell said Davis is right, however, in her criticism of Harrisburg's landlords. She said Weigle, who testified in small-claims court earlier this year that he checked on the Eve Street house frequently, hasn't set foot inside it since the family moved in.

She said he only comes by once a month to get the rent, usually coming no closer than the front gate. He told her sister he would fix some broken windows and the leak and sagging ceiling in the back room, but he never did, Bell said.

Weigle did paint the outside of the house, the result of a visit from code enforcement in early 2009, and he has been ordered a few times since then to clean up the yard, according to the License and Inspection Department. Last week was the first time inspectors entered the house, Code Enforcement Manager Pam Costabile said.

Costabile said last week that she hopes Weigle might find his tenants a place to go; that doesn't seem to be the case. Bell showed a reporter a letter an attorney for Weigle sent to the family last week, dated the day after the inspectors' visit, demanding they vacate within three days for nonpayment of rent.

Bell said her sister is paid up with Weigle, though. "He's just covering himself," she said of the landlord, who has declined to speak to The Chronicle about the situation with the house.

Last week, Costabile ordered the family in writing to leave immediately, and verbally told them to have their things out by the end of the week. She came by Monday to see why they haven't left, and one of Tankersley's brothers said they don't have any options.

Costabile gave them phone numbers for the United Way and the Salvation Army and told them to check with some local churches.

Fran Oliver, the executive director of Harrisburg's Mercy Ministries, a Christian outreach to the poor and homeless, said the family might be eligible for rapid rehousing stimulus funds, which could be applied for through the Salvation Army.

Oliver said she would send one of her workers to the house today to talk to them.

Code Enforcement's Visits to 223 Eve St.

JAN. 8, 2009

Complaint: Junk and debris in yard, too many people in the house.

Found: Junk and debris in the yard. Six family members in the house, which is legal. Inspectors noted that the exterior needed to be painted.

Resolution: Junk and debris were removed from the yard and the house was painted. Case dismissed.

JAN. 7

Complaint: Trash and debris in the yard.

Found: Complaint confirmed

Resolution: Yard was cleaned and the trash and debris were removed. Case dismissed.

AUG. 24

Complaint: An inspector found appliances in the backyard.

Resolution: Appliances were removed from backyard. Case dismissed.

SEPT. 21

Complaint: Bad odor, electricity being provided to this address by a drop cord from an adjoining house.

Found: No power or water. Feces, toilet tissue and buckets of urine in the backyard. In the house, jugs of urine, a bag containing feces, roaches, a hole in the ceiling, rotten flooring, and several other maintenance issues. Fire hazard due to the amount of junk and belongings in the house. Resolution: A notice was delivered to the tenant and posted on the structure saying it is condemned until brought into compliance. The notice was also sent by e-mail to the owner's attorney. The tenants have not left the property, saying they have nowhere to go.

Source: Augusta License and Inspection Department

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Just My Opinion
6304
Points
Just My Opinion 09/28/10 - 03:38 am
0
0
So, this lady says all those

So, this lady says all those cars that were coming and going were of other family and friends who "love them". Well, why don't they ask them for a place to stay? I'll tell you why...they know that once those folks come over, they'll never leave! What a sad situation this is. And where is that sorry, good for nothing landlord?? I'm not saying that he has to put them up some place, but it's obvious that he's not been keeping the place up at all. He doesn't care about anything except the money. I don't know where this guy works, but I'd hate to be a customer of his because he obviously doesn't care about anyone but himself. Anyway, it's also obvious that these tenants are just looking for the government to come bail them out and put them someplace...anyplace would be better than what they've got now.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 09/28/10 - 03:45 am
0
0
Subsidy programs have many,

Subsidy programs have many, many unforeseen consequences. Now, with this example, some are seen.
Will changes be made?
I'm reminded of the current definition of insanity.
I suspect the taxpayers will be held responsible for this situation.

beyondbelief
0
Points
beyondbelief 09/28/10 - 05:42 am
0
0
And now we have disabled

And now we have disabled children supporting (through SSI) the adults in the home who refuse to work. Why are the minors still in the home. Please deliver a copy of the Augusta Chronicle to DFCS. You can add the cost to my subscription.

CABoatright
188
Points
CABoatright 09/28/10 - 06:17 am
0
0
Righto beyonebelief...DFCS
Unpublished

Righto beyonebelief...DFCS should have been on this one since Jan 2009 when the first complaint was filed. We've already paid far too much by way of taxes...get those kids out of there before they have kids of their own & live off our tax money.

anotherlook
101
Points
anotherlook 09/28/10 - 07:36 am
0
0
Folks, I know that this post

Folks, I know that this post won't be popular with most of you but other than asking this family to disappear or go somewhere and die quietly so that the rest of us won't be bothered by their problems, I just don't see what else can be done. Jesus said the poor will be with us always. And at least for this family, they are here and one way or another we are going to have to pay.

For instance, Beyondbelief, did the article mention any able bodied adults who could work? Unless I missed something, the 21 year old grandson has mental problems which if he received treatment and training, might be able to work; Ms. Tankersley had a heart attack last month and suffers with pancreatitis as well as diabetes; and her brothers are both disabled, (one of which has prostate cancer). Now who is capable of working again?

Nonetheless, it seems that this family needs immediate intervention and case management. I don't know if they have turned down assistance in the past, disqualified themselves, or what might have been the case that they have not accessed housing assistance, but whatever the case may be, this family needs outside intervention. The 16 and 15 year olds should be placed in foster care until the family receives a case plan and their situation can be stabilized. The 21 year old should be taken out to Serenity Behavioral Health and re-assessed for a few days and then once that is done a residential program should be located for a temporary placement. If neither of the disabled brothers receives disablility (the article only mentioned that the two oldest grandsons do) then if there are available indigent care funds, both brothers should be hospitalized and the one with the broken shoulder and hip should be placed for rehabilitation, while funds from organizations that provide assistance to those with cancer might help the brother with prostate cancer until he could qualify to get disability income. As for Ms. Tankersly, if she could not stay with a family member, Garden City and Salvation Army shelters might have room for her. I don't think that with her situation Interfaith Hospitality Network would fit her needs. I know that this will take a lot of time and resources to staighten out, but this situation didn't occur overnight and it will not be resolved overnight. There may be Churches that could step in and provide some assistance as well.

As for the Landlord, I will trust that Ms. Lori Davis and the good people of the Harrisburg Community will continue addressing the problems at 223 Eve Street.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 09/28/10 - 07:38 am
0
0
with all the "relatives or
Unpublished

with all the "relatives or family" that tends to "stop by" you would think one of their so-called "family members" would be willing to take them in, since they are so willing and able to "stop by" and visit, especially to a home with no running water, utilities or functioning toilets...if anyone acutally believes they are "family members" especially with out of state plates i have some ocean front property to sell you in arizona real cheap at 1.00 per acre......

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 09/28/10 - 07:49 am
0
0
I am more concerned about the

I am more concerned about the murders that are taking place, then someone eye sore. Sure this needs to be addressed but not with stories after stories.

momster59
0
Points
momster59 09/28/10 - 07:54 am
0
0
It would be nice if the

It would be nice if the landlord, who stated that he wouldn't mind the family living next to him, would find them a place to live on his street. Or maybe certain people were right and he's just a greedy, sleazy landlord.

Little Lamb
49251
Points
Little Lamb 09/28/10 - 07:59 am
0
0
I don't know what Code

I don't know what Code Enforcement was thinking when they ordered the family to leave in three days. Eviction procedures give much longer than that. Code Enforcement can make their orders, but they cannot enforce their orders because three days for an eviction is illegal.

beyondbelief
0
Points
beyondbelief 09/28/10 - 08:08 am
0
0
anotherlook, lets see. Ms.

anotherlook, lets see. Ms. Tankersley is 53 years old. She took in 6 grandchildren. We don't know how old the oldest grandchild is but at least 1 is 21 years old. It appears that either she, and daughter, or both began having children in their early to mid teens. She used, yes USED, those grandchildren for a number of years to support herself. She has allowed other family members to move into the residence further draining the assets the state has provided for the support of the children. Rather than transporting water from a public spicket (I know of at least 2 in the area) or the homes of "loving family members" that are continuously stopping by to visit, so that the toilets can be flushed, she allows human waste to build up in the home and yard. This woman is physically, mentally, and financially unfit to continue raising those children. They should be removed immediately! As to the 2 other adult men living in the home (and I'm sorry but I have a family member with prostate cancer who get out of bed everyday and goes to WORK), if they are unable to support themselves they should look elsewhere for support. This woman's first obligation is the the children that were placed in her custody and she has failed in her duty to them. DFACS where are you?

KingJames
11
Points
KingJames 09/28/10 - 08:47 am
0
0
I said it before and I'll say

I said it before and I'll say it again. Both the landlord and the tenant are responsible for the property. Wiegle should have made repairs and visited often. Tankersley may have gotten sick, but that doesn't excuse the junk and the filth in the house and in the yard that were obviously there before her heart attack. It's a shame family will visit often, but won't step in to help.

bettyboop
8
Points
bettyboop 09/28/10 - 08:52 am
0
0
Looks like this will be

Looks like this will be handled just like every other problem the City has confronted........Nothing will be done!

a different drum
26
Points
a different drum 09/28/10 - 08:56 am
0
0
I think the code enforcement

I think the code enforcement should inspect all the houses in Harrisburg. Perhaps they should have monthly inspections to make sure all the houses are clean and livable. Perhaps they should do it on a city wide basis. From reading this article it does not sound like code enforcement needs a search warrant. It appears they the authority to go in homes at will and do these inspections. I think with the economy the way it is – there probably are other people in the area living without electricity. If this Cap and Trade Bill goes through Congress – there will be a lot more. As for the water -- I think the City should turn it on for these people until they can find a place to move to.

seenitB4
98620
Points
seenitB4 09/28/10 - 09:16 am
0
0
This is a bigger problem than

This is a bigger problem than we can solve on here.

edwardc
1
Points
edwardc 09/28/10 - 09:29 am
0
0
Makes one wonder about the

Makes one wonder about the living conditions of some of the people on the TV Show about Hoarders.
This is a difficult problem. People who have to depend on The System get beat down by it because of the harshness of it. Sometimes I wonder if things didn't take a turn for the worse when the do-gooders decided it was best to turn mentally ill people out on the street.

edwardc
1
Points
edwardc 09/28/10 - 09:33 am
0
0
Thanks, anotherlook. I hope

Thanks, anotherlook. I hope your recommendations will be followed up on. So many tax-paid social workers try to avoid helping people.

flipa
35
Points
flipa 09/28/10 - 09:39 am
0
0
They can SOMEHOW always

They can SOMEHOW always afford cigarettes, drugs, liquor and porn. As a landlord who DOES give folks jobs & fix up my rental properties I have had to clean up after folks like this for over 25 yrs. Every time I do I get a “thank you note” from the tax assessor’s office saying they raised my property taxes for doing so. I just took it on the chin and joined the tea party and the National Taxpayers Union www.NTU.org.
Tax USER’S are much more on the side of these folks than they are on ours. Somehow the tax USER’S will get around to sending U.S. the bill for these folks, I guarantee it.

anotherlook
101
Points
anotherlook 09/28/10 - 11:36 am
0
0
Beyondbelief, I also agree

Beyondbelief, I also agree that Ms. Tankersley must have some mental health issues that allowed the situation to hit such a nadir. Although I failed to reccomend it, surely she too should be assessed and receive treatment. However, I did mention that the minors should be placed in foster care until a case plan was established and the family stabilized their situation. The Juvenile Courts and DFCS could then decide if the case plan was completed satisfactorily and if the children would no longer be at risk thereby allowing custody to be returned to the family. At no time did I suggest that the children should be left in the home or be returned to the same unsafe conditions. And I apologize if I may have given that impression.

Regarding your family member, I am pleased that he is strong enough, has the support to continue fighting this disease, and is able to remain employed. It can be a long difficult process and he is fortunate to have someone like you (and surely other family,friends, and co-workers) who encourages his efforts. Unfortunately, not everyone does.

Upon reflection, I may have assumed that the brother with cancer was in the later stages of the disease; that in fact may not be the case. But since the article did not specifically give us the details on what stage the cancer was in, whether he was receiving treatments that were debilitating, or whether others were residing in the home, I could have drawn the wrong conclusion; he may in fact be able-bodied. Without further information, who could say? Nonetheless, any action on behalf of this family should be immediate and coordinated so that the most good can be done on their behalf without duplication of services or wasting resources.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 09/28/10 - 11:33 am
0
0
dear flipa, you don't receive
Unpublished

dear flipa, you don't receive a tax bill from the tax ASSESSORS office, what you receive is a notice informing you that your value is subject to change(i say subject because you have a right to file an appeal on the proposed change in value), if you have a probelm with your tax liability increasing, then may i suggest you contact your school board(over 60%your tax liability is made up of your school tax-your value can stay the same but your tax liability can change if your "esteemed" school board increases their mill rate to raise more money for useless, wasteful programs or athletic venues), then flipa, you have your commissioners, if they need more money for day-to-day operations or anything else all they need to do is raise their mill rate. so flipa it's is not the tax ASSESSORS office that increases your taxes, your tax liability CAN be influenced or increased/decreased by a change in value, but that's only one component. i suggest you pull your past tax bills and look to see if your value changed, if not then it is an increase in your mill rates, increase in garbage fees or any othe fee increased by the commissioners or your school board members...BTW flip since you are giving out links how about going to this link to understand the value and property tax process......www.GAAO.org

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 09/28/10 - 11:36 am
0
0
p. s. filpa, your tax bill
Unpublished

p. s. filpa, your tax bill comes from the tax commissioners office...room 117

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 09/28/10 - 11:39 am
0
0
LL.. this is not a routine

LL.. this is not a routine eviction for something such as nonpayment of rent or breach of lease.. the house was condemned because it is NOT fit for human habitation, meaning it poses an immediate health risk to the people living in it and those around it. Remember that this situation has been ongoing for more than 2 years.. if the city had been doing its job all a long instead of just turning a blind eye, then perhaps these problems would never have been allowed to get to this point. After 2 years of complaints and multiple visits where exterior code violations were found.. this is the first time code enforcement ever inspected the inside of the house.. if this had been done earlier then corrective action could have been taken long ago.
And btw members of Harrisburg churches did offer help to this family, and were rebuffed. You cannot force someone to accept help. As for the traffic.. anyone with any common sense knows what is going on at that house.. mulitple cars coming and going at all hours.. pulling up to the curb.. never going inside, but someone from the porch coming down to the car.

anotherlook
101
Points
anotherlook 09/28/10 - 11:54 am
0
0
Emerydan, you are correct

Emerydan, you are correct that you can't force someone to accept assistance. But maybe now, the horse that refused to drink before will find that the salt added to his oats has made him thirsty enough to want a drink! By the way, do you or any of the other posters think that Ms. Davis will get more support for the Nuisance Property law because of this situation?

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 09/28/10 - 12:28 pm
0
0
actually yes.. because if

actually yes.. because if Augusta had a CNPO like the one Ms Davis is advocating, this issue would have been resolved a long time ago.. and would never have been allowed to fester to this point where thjis family would be put in this situation. A CNPO would put some accountability on these landlords to adequately maintain these properties and would levy fines on landlords with chronic issues that go uncorrected. Currently, there is no accountability on the landlord. A CNPO would change that. We have a situation where a few slumlords are given free reign with no accountability and no penalties, so they have no incentive to make sure their properties are in compliance with codes until something like this happens and they are forced to. A CNPO would have nipped this in the bud more than a year ago before it ever got to this point.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 09/28/10 - 12:32 pm
0
0
It is simply unacceptable for

It is simply unacceptable for anyone, regardless of their situation in life, to be living in these conditions. Just imagine if the roof had collapsed, or the unapproved extension cord providing illegal power started a fire and killed everyone inside. We must have some basic minimal standards for the dwellings in this city.. that's one thing that separates us from 3rd world countries

Little Lamb
49251
Points
Little Lamb 09/28/10 - 12:57 pm
0
0
Okay, Emerydan, but I am

Okay, Emerydan, but I am sticking with my premise that Code Enforcement will drag their feet about actually sending someone into that house to drag the occupants kicking and screaming to the curb, like they were sofas and mattresses.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 09/28/10 - 01:04 pm
0
0
And that would show exactly

And that would show exactly how impotent our current code enforcement regime is and why the landlord has to be brought into the equation. What penalties will the landlord face over this? likely none..with a CNPO, there would be some penalty placed on this negligent absentee landlord. This makes the case more than ever why Augusta needs an effective CNPO.. this bandaid approach of a revolving door of citing a property for numerous code violations with NO penalties does not work.. in fact it just prolongs the problems and allows them to get worse.

corgimom
38758
Points
corgimom 09/28/10 - 02:18 pm
0
0
LL, if a home is condemned as

LL, if a home is condemned as not fit for human habitation, people can be evicted immediately. It is not the same as being evicted for non-payment of rent.

They need to get RCSO out there to evict them.

No water, no sanitation facilities. A fire hazard. Rotting floors. Roaches. That's a life-threatening situation, especially with sick and disabled people. Children do not deserve to live in such filthy conditions.

And I don't believe the BS that the family is dishing out.

She's been in the hospital? Well, the SSI money hasn't stopped, so why haven't the bills been paid? Where's the money?

The way I see it, it looks to me like there's about 6 disability/Social Security checks coming to that house every month. That seems like plenty to me to pay rent and utilities.

How broke can you be with 6 checks?

corgimom
38758
Points
corgimom 09/28/10 - 02:20 pm
0
0
I have another question.

I have another question. Since everybody loves them and they have lots of friends, why didn't one of their friends pick up the trash in the yard and haul off the appliances?

a different drum
26
Points
a different drum 09/28/10 - 03:09 pm
0
0
Everyone say these people are

Everyone say these people are selling drugs, but is there any records of the police making arrest at this house? This is America people have the right to live in poverty and have trashy surrounds if they so choose. I say we take up a collection and try to get them a home in West Lake!

a different drum
26
Points
a different drum 09/28/10 - 03:23 pm
0
0
I look at the picture in the

I look at the picture in the paper shown above of the front porch of this house. I don't see anything unusual about it. It doesn’t look trashy to me -- it is just an old house. All the houses in Harrisburg are old. Harrisburg was not a desirable place to live back in the late 60's or 70's. Why should it be any different now. This family should get a lawyer and sue the city and this woman that has been claiming they are selling drugs.

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