Storyland Motel, Home and Health Risk

April 7, 2009 8:15:19 PM PDT
Mary Howard scrubbed away the toxic mold invading her one bedroom unit at the Storyland Motel but she says it keeps coming back. Her 13 year old daughter Elexus, who has a chronic lung disease, got so sick living there she had to move in with a relative. Howard said, "Because of the black mildew on the wall, it's really bad for the lungs on a normal person and with someone that has disabilities like this it could kill her."Right next door black mold thrives, and orange and black mildew polka dot the ceilings and walls. In another unit filled with piles of clutter and garbage, a code enforcement officer says the walls are orange from years of cigarette smoke build-up.

Bill Ross with the City of Fresno's Code Enforcement division said, "I would not let a loved one live here, absolutely not." Since posting signs that say "Do Not Enter" and telling tenants three weeks ago they had to move from the uninhabitable motel only about 2 dozen families have. At least 26 units are still occupied because people say they're waiting for the money the city promised them to help them move. Ross said, "This is an interim measure to do what we can to find more suitable housing for the folks. But there needs to be a permanent solution obviously."

Ginger Smith is part of a church ministry providing 120 sack lunches and Easter baskets to the families still living at the filthy Storyland Motel. Smith said, "Right now I don't believe the city really has a plan," Formerly homeless herself, Smith doesn't believe the city's plan for these people goes far enough. "I believe what the plan is, is to offer people classes, to come out of homelessness. I believe they need parenting, substance abuse and nutrition."

The City of Fresno has several motels these families can stay at for the next month but so far there is no long-term plan for them. City officials say they're breaking new ground here because they've never had to relocate this many people at one time.

The goal is to have every tenant out of here by the end of the week but there are some people that refuse to leave. In that case the city attorney will have to step in.

The motel owner is out of L.A. but the city doesn't know if he has deep pockets needed to bring this place up to code or if this story will end with a bulldozer.

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