Earl Starr: Evanston homeowner who faces jail time for code violations has new hope

'I'm optimistic'

CINCINNATI -- An Evanston homeowner who risks jail time over his property’s building code violations has new hope today.

An anonymous benefactor donated $2,000 to Earl Starr’s GoFundMe campaign on Wednesday evening, bringing him just over the campaign’s goal of $2,800.

“The GoFundMe was like my new heartbeat last night,” Starr told WCPO Thursday.

As WCPO and 9 On Your Side first reported May 17, Starr was sentenced to home incarceration and has been wearing and electronic monitoring device on his ankle after a lengthy dispute with the city of Cincinnati over the condition of his property.

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Starr has gotten estimates from contractors as high as $50,000 to make all the repairs his two-family home needs. But he said he believes he can get the basics accomplished with the money his GoFundMe campaign raised and donated time and labor from people in the community who have offered to help.

Starr was working with a local nonprofit organization that had offered to help him with repairs, but that process looked like it would take longer than the time he has left to meet his deadline, he said.

Hamilton County Municipal Judge Bernie Bouchard placed Starr on the electronic monitoring device in March and gave him 90 days to complete work outlined by the city. If he doesn’t get the work finished, Bouchard said he would sentence Starr to 180 days in jail.

Starr said he’s determined to get the repairs finished by the court’s deadline because his fate is in the judge’s hands now.

“I have until the 21st of June,” Starr said. “That’s what the judge gave me, and that’s what I’m shooting for.”

Starr said he has friends in the community with construction experience who have offered to help him make the repairs.

He could still use more help, Starr said, and he might need to raise a little more money before he’s finished.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “And my call out to the community is to contractors who have laborers or people who just want to donate time and help.”

Starr said he has been overwhelmed by the support he already has received since the original story published on WCPO.com and aired on 9 On Your Side.

“I thought that the community itself was just looking for entertainment,” he said. “And yet they’ve stepped up to help. I want to thank everyone in the community.”

Earl Starr is continuing to provide updates through his GoFundMe campaign and Facebook page.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region -- to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To read more stories about childhood poverty, go to www.wcpo.com/poverty.

To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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