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Residents homeless after city cites safety concerns, cuts emergency assistance

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19 displaced by vacant building fire in West End

CINCINNATI – A majority of 19 people that included 10 children, found themselves homeless Saturday afternoon, even though the building they live in is just fine.

Sharlie Darden and others were notified the city would no longer pay for their stay at the Ramada Downtown after city inspectors forced them to evacuate 1008 York Street last Sunday when neighboring 1010 York Street caught fire and appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

“The building is leaning up against our building,” Darden said.

Darden and others were told they could move back into their building once 1010 York Street was demolished.

On Sunday and Monday the Red Cross paid for the residents to stay at the Ramada. Then a local church collected money to pay for the hotel stay on Wednesday. The city stepped in and paid for Thursday and Friday night, Darden said.

On Saturday, 1010 York Street still stood and most of the residents of 1008 York Street received notice from the city.

“The city has said that they don't have enough money to tear down the abandoned building that caught fire and they have stopped footing the bill for the hotel,” Darden said.  “So all families staying at the Ramada have to check out today (Saturday) at 11 and try to find somewhere else to go while they try to find monies from an outside source to continue demolition.”

Two families stays were extended at the hotel, according to an employee at the Ramada.

Meg Olberding, spokeswoman for the city of Cincinnati, said she was familiar with Darden’s situation. She stated multiple factors play into the future demolition of 1010 York Street that would allow Darden and others to move back into their residence.

One factor was determining if it was the building owner or the city who was responsible for tearing down the dilapidated building, Olberding said. She added if the families received help from the city, then they would be put in contact with relocation services, not simply put out on the street.

Charles Graves III, director of planning and building for the city, said there was no time frame in which the 1010 York Street would be demolished. He said building inspectors needed to be contacted and that his office would resolve the issue as soon as possible.

As Darden left the Ramada with five bags full of personal belongings, and children in tow, she disputed Olberding’s claims that the city would not abandon them.

Darden said she’s left messages with Cheryl V. Crawford with the Department of Community Development who heads the city’s emergency relocation assistance program. Crawford had not returned calls on Saturday, Darden said.

WCPO also left a message for Crawford seeking comment on Saturday afternoon.

“I’ve been talking with my landlord. He’s not been getting any contact from the city,” Darden added.

Darden said the situation on Saturday was dire for the misplaced residents at 1008 York Street, since many of them left without clothing or plans to be away from their homes for so long.

“It's raining, most of us are walking and a few have children,” she said.” We have no clothes, no money, no food and no more patience.  I’ll take my kids probably to my mother’s house. I can be on the street. I’m not going to have them walk around with me.”

Adding to Darden’s frustration is the fact she said the city condemned 1010 York Street a full year before Sunday’s fire. She said an officer knocked on her door in 2012, notifying her of existing structural issues with the neighboring building. A barricade was erected around that property.

But the barricade and the city’s concern eventually disappeared and the building was sold to a new owner, Darden said.

“Why weren’t you all (the city) concerned last year?” Darden asked. “They said it was falling. They didn’t kick us out (of our building). Life went back to normal. We didn’t think about it anymore, since they didn’t think about it.

“This is the city's fault and now they've left us hanging,” Darden said.

Records from the Hamilton County Auditor's website indicate 1010 York Street was sold for $3,000 in June of 2012.

The fire at 1010 York Street continued to be investigated by the Cincinnati Fire Department. Crews determined the fire started in the attic, but were unclear on what sparked the actual blaze.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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