Two apartment buildings condemned by the city of Merced left 32 people on the street this week, according to advocates.
The 12 units were condemned on June 22 because the “complex is deemed substandard and poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of the occupants,” according to notices placed on the unit doors.
In the displaced group were children, seniors and adults, including two pregnant women, advocates said.
Tenants were given 24 hours to leave, according to Bal Samra, whose family owns the property. An upstairs unit began leaking and water seeped into the unit below it, Samra said.
“They said this unit and these were not safe,” Samra said, motioning to the two with water damage. “Because of that, they tagged all of them.”
Obviously, this is something that doesn’t happen over night. How quickly it happened, we’re not sure.
Mike Conway, a spokesman for the city of Merced
City inspectors also told him the upstairs walkways did not meet safety requirements, he said. Another upstairs unit, where a water heater began leaking, had a soggy carpet and the smell of mildew on Friday.
The complex rents its units at $550 a month, Samra said, and is a place for people “to get on their feet.”
“This place is not the best. It looks bad,” he said. “This is how these people live.”
Pointing to a tree draped with a tarp on the west side of Highway 59, directly across from the apartments, Samra said a tenant was living in the makeshift house.
Tenants were not available for comment on Friday.
Merced building inspectors found the stairwells and ceilings to have “major structural issues” and to be too damaged to allow the tenants to stay, according to city spokesman Mike Conway. Inspectors were at the complex after a tenant complained.
This place is not the best. It looks bad. This is how these people live.
Bal Samra, whose family owns the condemned apartments
“Obviously, this is something that doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “How quickly it happened, we’re not sure.”
The 24-hour notice to vacate was necessary because the safety risks were so great, Conway said.
The tenants were transported to the Merced County Department of Social Services, according to officials with Catholic Charities in Merced.
Catholic Charities helped get about 20 of them shelter through the Merced County Community Action Agency, Merced Rescue Mission, D Street Shelter and county services. Catholic Charities also help to provide motel rooms and bags of food.
Catholic Charities asked for help through monetary donations from the community. To donate, call Dena Medeiros, site director at Catholic Charities of Merced at 209-383-2494.