A disaster waiting to happen : The Colfax Shanty

posted Jun 5, 2011, 1:23 PM by mpls tornado   [ updated Mar 9, 2012, 3:39 PM ]
Sunday June 5th 2011. 4pm CST.
This afternoon, on the mplstornado wall, I posted that the north-east section of North Minneapolis had been hit pretty hard but there was hardly any info coming from the area so I intended to drive up there and walk around speaking to residents. I waled up and down a few blocks talking to a few residents here and there. Most seemed to only have issues with trees on the lawn and flattened garages. Selfless as ever, they even advised that I should go check on the residents around Logan and 30th-Lowry as most were in terrible shape ( I was there yesterday). I jumped in my vehicle and started driving back to the area with the intent of going to every single house on that block and trying to engage residents. 
    I drove down Dupont and the 40s, glancing left and right for anything interesting. Right when I was passing Dupont and 40th, something caught my eye a block away. As I was driving past the intersection, I glanced to my right and a block away, on Colfax and 40th, I spied a couple coming out of a house that was boarded up.
I immediately slammed the brakes, reversed and drove down 40th towards Colfax and parked on the corner. I parked and approached a lady standing outside to ask if they were ok. My assumption was that they were returning to their condemned home to pick up clothes or so. She said they were fine and was very reluctant to talk to me. I was about to walk away when I decided to ask her, " Is everything good with your landlord?" and that opened the doors to my horrific discovery. She said that things on that end were terrible but that the person I really needed to speak to was called Chris and he lived on the other end of the house. I was a bit surprised, since I thought it was one house but apparently it was two ( that's what I thought...keep reading). As I walked around to look for Chris, he appeared from the side of the house and I engaged him in conversation. The first question I asked him was where he lived now that the house was boarded up. To my horror, he said he is still living in the house. I asked him if he has any kids and he told me he is there with 4 kids, the youngest of whom is a 12month old toddler. I thought the boarded up house and torn apart roof was the worst until Chris invited me inside to look at the house. The ceiling in the Kitchen seemed to be hanging low as if filled with water, the house also seemed unstable. He showed me a section on the floor not far away from where the 4 kids were playing. That section of the floor was soo weak that he had covered it with a plywood board. My stomach turned at the thought of one of the kids falling through the floor. He then showed me one room where there are cracks on the wall from the ceiling until about my height level.............and this is all on the ground floor..
Above: Crack on wall ( not too visible to camera), Next: Ceiling damage..btw this is the ground floor. No idea of how upstairs must be

The house seemed like it was about to cave in at any moment. Chris strongly expressed his concern for the safety of his kids and said that he and Becky ( his girlfriend) had called the city so many times that they had lost hope. As for the landlord, he said that they had totally been neglected. The landlord only showed up to board up the windows with plywood and left, not being heard of again, and had stopped answering phone calls. The landlord's company is called Urban Enterprises. They gave me the full names of the husband and wife duo who they claim own the property but I will not publish the names for privacy purposes. The lady I first spoke to outside had said that the city of Minneapolis has some form of ownership of the property. I can't really figure out since that house has been divided so many times that I couldn't even figure out how many houses existed within the same house, because while outside taking a picture of Chris's family, a gentleman named Benny approached us. He apparently also lives within the same unit in a house of his own. Just like the 1st lady I met ( whom I hear has a 12 month old toddler), Chris has 4 kids, one of whom is a toddler, Benny has 3 kids aged 2, 4, and 7. That is already about 8 kids under the age of 10 living in this uninhabitable structure. I was also still unable to figure out how many houses existed within the same house. 
From Left : Benny, Chris holding son, Becky holding the toddler, and the other kids. Benny lives in the other section of the house that is towards left of the pic and has been condemned by the city. His 3 kids were indoors eating

Benny also pointed out to me that the address appearing on the door ( 10002) does not show up on any city maps and is pretty much non-existent. I couldn't find it on google maps. Becky, Chris's girlfriend pointed out that she came across a rental certificate for the house that expired in November 2006.

In conclusion, SOMEONE PLEASE HELP THEM ASAP!!!!. And please protect them from any form of retaliation by landlords. I have Chris and Benny's contact info and would be glad to share it with the right officials. Benny has been told to move out of his section of the unit by the City as it is condemned. he has until Friday to move out and has nowhere to go with his 3 kids, youngest of whom is 2yrs old. Chris's section of the house looks like it will collapse at any moment, the floor is falling apart, and they have toddlers. They need to be settled in a proper abode ASAP. A common complaint between them as well as some people in the area is that they feel the city inspectors are ignoring them because tons of calls have gone unanswered.

Becky, Chris's gilfriend says she has called the city 3 times. The first time she called was after Benny ( the neighbor) got the letter from the city asking them to move out of the structure. Becky tried to explain to the city lady that their house is literally attached to Benny's so they need a place to go but the city lady shut her down and told her that the city had inspected all houses in the area and that if they hadn't received a red sticker on their door, they should stay in the house and stop bugging her. Becky then called a second time to complain about the ceiling and roof due to the tornado damage and once again, the city employee she spoke to shut her down saying that they had inspected everything and that if there were no stickers, the house is fine. Becky then decided to call a third time and NOT mention anything about the tornado, and that is when the city agreed to send someone out but they do not know when the inspector will be going to the residence so they can show the damage.  As for the landlords, the tenants say it is not even a complaint anymore, it is evident that the landlords do not care at all and they are just trying to get by ( bear in mind that they are still obligated to pay rent). I do not want to offer personal opinion because what I saw was just disturbing........the pictures do not even capture the reality and severity of the living conditions.........if you know there are 10 kids living in a property you own, for you to go there after a disaster and board up all windows in the residence then walk away and leave them living in an uninhabitable structure is HEARTLESS!! especially knowing that there are toddlers in the house.!! This MUST be adressed ASAP and the families resettled before the kids fall sick or harm themselves. I know this isn't the first, and isn't the last, but some action needs to be taken. Yesterday on the facebook page, I mentioned the story of the lady who lives on Logan and 30th with a similar situation. Landlord came and boarded up house and disappeared. She has a flooded basement and an athsmatic grand daughter. While this might not be the worst there is out there, it is indeed grave. What is even more alarming is that from outside, you could easily ignore the boarded up house and drive by assuming no one lives in it