Life O'Riley Trailers Deemed 'Unfit for Human Occupancy'


The Ingham County Health Department knocked on doors Saturday morning, making sure all residents are out of the condemned Life O'Riley Mobile Home Park.

"We want to make sure that those who may think they can stay here because they don't see signs," said Debbie Edokpolo, assistant deputy health officer with the Ingham County Health Department. "So the signs are really a way to ensure that everyone is clear, that this is not a safe place to be."

Four Environmental Health Workers handed out two pieces of paper Saturday. If people answered the door, they were given a letter saying they had to leave. Every trailer home also was branded with an orange flier saying they were unfit for human occupancy.

The Health Department condemned the park Feb. 25 after concerns over raw sewage and bed bugs in many homes. Residents were given ten days to find a new place to live.

Residents are allowed to pack up their remaining belongings, but aren't allowed to live in the park.

"We would not have posted the condemnation if it wasn't serious, so it's very serious and we want to give people a good place to live," said Edokpolo. "This means that this area is uninhabitable for human occupancy. So those that have lived here, called this place home, can no longer live here."

That was a tough pill for Judy Folger to swallow. The 15-year resident fought back tears as she loaded her PT Cruiser with her belongings.

"I'm drained, tired, can't sleep," said Folger. "How can [the management] put people through this? It's not right. Only having ten days. That's not enough for any one of us even with the bare necessities to get out of here."

Brothers William and Philip Cole say they were angry initially when told they would have to leave within ten days, but since their perspective has changed considerably.

"Circumstances brought us here but now circumstances have opened new doors and opportunities for us," said William, a disabled veteran. "I'm glad we're moving into a better place."

The Coles were quick to thank the people who have helped them through the process, namely the Homeless Angels organization.

Lansing Human Relations and Community Services Director Joan Jackson Johnson was driving a city van completely full of toiletries and other essentials for displaced families.

"They feel like the rug was pulled from under them, so you talk about the physical changes, but psychologically, it's a loss for them," said Johnson. "Regardless of how bad it was, it was something they were calling home."

Now, most of the residents are calling local hotels and motels home. Johnson said most of the 80 displaced families are at one of four area hotels and motels. About twenty families have moved into new homes, but there's no timetable for completing the process.

"My hope is again as we settle more people that they will begin to feel a new sense of hope, a new sense of living and to realize that they deserve far better treatment and a much better home than what they've resided in," said Johnson.

It's hard for Tim Walker to see a brighter future, especially when he's living in Room 111 of the Super 8 Motel on the south side. His wife, aunt and two pets reside in the room while they await a new placement.

"This is the worst situation we have ever been in in our entire 25 years of being married," said Walker. "It's really really stressful, can hardly get any sleep trying to figure where our next meal is going to come and where we're going to sleep. But for right now, we're stuck in a motel room."


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