A local family with five children is still seeking a new home after city inspectors declared their trailer at a North Lawrence mobile home park uninhabitable last week.
Chris Grammer said he and his wife, Tracy, left their condemned mobile home on April 2 after city inspectors found raw sewage draining onto the ground beneath the trailer.
“It has just torn up the whole family,” said Grammer, who is staying with a friend in Eudora who takes him to his carpenter’s job, while his wife and children stay at a Lawrence motel. “We don’t want to lose our kids over this. I just wish we could have been given more warning.”
Brian Jimenez, the city’s code enforcement manager, said Monday his office began condemning properties at the Riverview Trailer Park, 827 Walnut St., last week after receiving a complaint from a tenant.
“That complaint led us to another trailer, and that led us to start looking at everything out there,” Jimenez said.
In total, the city has declared seven trailers unfit for habitation at the park. Four of the trailers, however, were already vacant, Jimenez said. City officials did not conduct further inspections on Monday, but Jimenez said his office will return to the park later this week, when more trailers may be declared unfit for habitation.
“Not everything is deplorable, but as a whole, we’re dealing with a property that has been neglected for a long time,” Jimenez said.
Grammer said his family is the largest one to have lost its home as a result of the inspections. He said he notified the park’s maintenance worker in December that sewage had started to leak from underneath the trailer.
“They would tell us that somebody would come by to fix it, and then nobody ever would,” said Grammer, who said his family’s rent at the trailer was $800 per month.
Grammer’s landlord and park owner George L. Warren said Monday that he was not aware of the sewage problem. Warren, who lives in California, said he had owned the park for about six years. During that time, he said he had a multitude of problems with poor managers of the park.
“The recent managers have been lazy and no good,” Warren said. “But I have a good manager there now.”
Warren said several of the tenants in the park had not paid their rents and were due to be evicted. But he said he wished the city had taken a less aggressive approach in declaring the structures inhabitable.
“All I want and all the tenants want is to give us a chance to fix it up, and we’ll do it right,” Warren said.
But Grammer said there is much to fix. He said many of the trailers have exposed wiring, leaky plumbing, rotting floors and broken windows.
“The owner is the type of guy who would rather tape something up than fix it,” Grammer said.
But Warren said he had spent thousands of dollars in materials to make repairs at the park.
“From the outside, I’m sure it looks like I’m a slumlord,” Warren said. “But go to Home Depot and ask them how much I have spent. I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars to fix it up.
“I’m a good Christian guy. I feel for the people there. I have taken in people that others won’t, I’m sure.”
Grammer, though, said he hasn’t received any assistance from Warren in finding a new home for his family. Grammer, whose family was given four days by the city to vacate the premises, said his wife has been calling area churches and social service agencies looking for help. The couple have a lead on a $775 per month rental house, but the family doesn’t yet have the necessary deposit and first month’s rent needed to sign a lease. The couple did not receive their security deposit back when they were forced to leave the mobile home.
“We’re still stuck in a bad situation,” Grammer said. “We still don’t know where we are going to go. It is scary, but I’m going to do whatever I can to get my kids through this.”
Jimenez said he expects the city to continue working on several issues related to the Riverview Trailer Park. Jimenez said the trailer park recently had its five-year city license to operate as a mobile home park expire. Jimenez said the park is required to pass an inspection before the permit can be renewed.
Jimenez said the city also may be poised to begin a new round of inspections at some other mobile home parks that have been the subject of complaints.
“I think there is at least one other park that we have our eye on,” Jimenez said. “I think we will look at that one pretty quickly.”
Jimenez, who said there are several mobile home parks in the city that are operated well, said mobile homes can incur several code violations in a short period of time because the older units need almost constant maintenance. He also said his office recognizes mobile homes often are filling a void in the low-income housing market.
“It is definitely a balancing act with us,” Jimenez said. “We have to assure the units are safe, but we have hearts like anybody else. We realize that when we find people in a situation like this there are a lot of factors that play into it.”