Homes still needed for the displaced
With the clock ticking down the seconds to Thursday, which marks the end of the time that former tenants of Goncho Apartments can remain at a local motel, local charities hope to be able to find housing for the remaining seven people.
As the deadline moves closer, Robert Triska and his mother Rose Varness continue to look for a new place to live. The pair are considering moving to Ottumwa, which is where the majority of Varness’s family resides. Varness said that she needs to find a place that will take her four dogs and four cats. They have been staying at a local animal shelter since Goncho Apartments was closed.
“She is trying to find a place to live,” Triska said. “We don’t have any prospects. She is working on this hard.”
The Rev. Jim Cluney of the Washington Area Ministerial Association said that the turnout in the community to help the people has been tremendous. At this point there is no longer a need for clothing for the tenants. He said many of the families have received clothing, but the problem of having no place to put them limits the amount that can be taken.
“We are still struggling to find housing,” he said. “We have some potential leads, but some of them are going to be difficult to fulfill.”
He said that plenty of food and gift certificates had been donated as well. He said that the items are being distributed, but that the association is also working to make sure the people don’t become dependent on the donations.
“We are trying to get them to stand on their feet,” he said. “That is one reason we had a cutoff for the housing. We’re having them try to find homes, because if it is always a handout, they don’t learn to better themselves.”
RenElla Crawford, operations manager for the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP), said that the organization has money for deposit and the first month‘s rent to aid the tenants. She said after that the tenants would be responsible for their own expenses.
Crawford said the deadline of Jan. 31 was set so the funds available could go to pay to relocate the people rather than maintaining the people in the motel.
Two families have been relocated. Cluney said that one family already went to Iowa City and another found housing in a local complex. He said that if housing doesn’t open up in Washington County, the people may have to look to Johnson County for a place to live.
Landlords with housing are asked to contact HACAP at 653-7275. People can also make cash donations at HACAP, and are asked to specify that money is meant for displaced families or Goncho Apartment residents.
On Jan. 16, the Washington Police Department ordered Goncho Apartments to be vacated until unacceptable levels of methamphetamine that had been found in the building were abated. A press release said that because of the high level of meth and numerous fire and safety code violations “the building is being deemed dangerous and unsafe to occupy at this time.” The building was secured at 10 a.m. Jan. 17, and anyone found inside will be charged with trespass.
Cluney said the response in the community has been mixed. He said that there has been an outpouring among some to aid the displaced tenants. He said that others have asked him why the association even helps them.
“I try to tell people that we wear bracelets and T-shirts that say ‘What would Jesus do?’” Cluney said. “I think he would do what we have been doing.”