UPDATE: Fire official must monitor housing for migrant workers to stay
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tuesday night the City of South Bend and the common council reached a deal to keep migrant workers living in a temporary housing facility, even though it does not have a fire-sprinkler system.
Nearly 200 workers have been staying in the former medical facility on West Western Avenue since June, but code violations raised some real concerns.
A miscommunication, that is what common council members are now calling the situation. It is a miscommunication that had many jumping to conclusion that the city would force workers to pick up and leave. Now, the mayor's office says that fear was all based on rumors.
"I think that with better communication, some of the hiccups that happened would not have occurred," said council member Oliver Davis.
Last week, common council members held an emergency press conference after widespread fear that migrant workers living at the former nursing home would be forced to relocate by the city because it had several safety code violations.
"The use without a sprinkler system was a violation of the code and that use would have to cease, but the idea of turning out people in the middle of the night, no not at all," said acting City Attorney Aladean DeRose.
So, the city and common council came together to draft a temporary agreement that says the migrant works can stay as long as the owner hires someone, educated in fire safety and prevention, to monitor the building 24 hours a day since the building does not have the fire-sprinkler system in place.
Among other things, the owner will also have to get a hotel operating license and schedule regular trash removal to continue housing the workers.
"I am quite satisfied. I think that we have protected a 190 people from a potential fire risk during this time of drought and heat," said DeRose.
The agreement also allowed common council members to achieve their biggest goal. "Our goal was to be welcoming and looking at how we can make south bend a welcoming city for our migrant families," said Davis.
At the meeting, ABC 57 also learned the owner of that building will not be using it to house migrant workers next year.
So, council members are in the process of developing a task force so that migrant workers will have some type of housing in the future.