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No Go Largo Village units condemned, displacing families

LARGO — It's been a rough couple of weeks for Teresa Godwin.

A week or so ago, her husband lost his job when the Clearwater air-conditioning company he worked for the last five years went out of business. A day or so later, the water at the No Go Largo Village mobile home park where the family has lived since 2006 was shut off because the owners were more than $8,000 behind on the bill.

And now Godwin, her husband and three children must find a new place to live.

"It's difficult especially for my kids," Godwin said of her children, ages 16, 14 and 10, as her eyes began to moisten with tears. "I want them to stay in the same school zone and my son, he just started high school."

Wednesday, Largo code enforcement officials deemed the mobile homes uninhabitable because of the lack of water, leaving the Godwins and seven other families with the daunting task of finding new homes on short notice.

Godwin, who works for Clearwater's Homeless Emergency Project, is among 18 adults and 16 children who will be relocated, mostly with the help of Catholic Charities, which was at the mobile home park Wednesday morning with Largo city officials.

The Godwins paid $685 a month for rent. She said Catholic Charities officials told her they would put the family up in a hotel for a week while they search for permanent housing.

"We are not slackers," said Godwin, 33. "We are trying to be good people and take care our families. Hopefully, someone will give us a chance and we can get a place with water."

In addition to Catholic Charities, the Tampa Bay Community Development Corp. will provide help with first and last month's rent and security deposits via a Largo-funded program that it manages.

The city of Largo is chipping in $5,000. The city's Community Development Department also has provided an initial $1,000 through the city's housing program, moving services have been donated by a local company and the Salvation Army has donated 37 one-day bus passes to assist in transportation.

"Our main concern is the displaced residents and making sure they have the necessities for living," said Jonathan E. Evans, an assistant to the city manager. "We want to ensure their safety and well-being."

The water was disconnected Sept. 30 because the park owner, Key Largo Communities Corp., had not paid the utility bill since July 25, according to Pinellas County Utilities. The water bill is $8,400.

"I think it's a bunch of crap and she lied from the beginning," said Anita Barnes, 61, who has lived at the park for almost two years. "I'm lucky I didn't pay my rent this month. I said, 'No water, no rent.' That's a violation of the lease. I couldn't wash my hair or take a shower. I've been taking duck baths."

Barnes was referring to Helene Provenzano, the partner of Key Largo Communities president Andrea Trani. She could not be reached for comment.

The city of Largo, which brought water and sandwiches to the area Wednesday, was notified about the water situation by an anonymous caller who saw residents walking back and forth with jugs of water, said Pete Jensen, Largo's code enforcement supervisor.

Jensen said the owners told residents that if they notified the city, they would be kicked out of their homes.

Only eight of the units were being rented. In all, the park has about 60 units, but the rest of them already were unlivable because of sagging floors and general dilapidation. One of the homes is burned.

Last month, Key Largo Communities was hit with fees by the city because of code enforcement violations at the park, Jensen said.

And, according to Pinellas Utilities, the mobile home park that folks from No Go Largo Village used for showering is also on the verge of having its water shut off.

Bragington Oaks, at 810 16th Ave. NW and also owned by Key Largo Communities, has six occupied units. But Trani made an agreement Wednesday with Pinellas County Utilities to pay $2,500 of the $6,079 owed on the water bill by today, said Micki Gates, assistant director of customer service for the utility.

Robert Burns, 21, moved into the park a couple of weeks ago with his sister. A construction worker, Burns said it was cheaper to split the $150 a week for a two-bedroom place than to pay $800 to $1,000 for an apartment. But with no water, it's been difficult.

"She (Provenzano) kept giving us the runaround," Burns said. "It'll be on the next day, then tomorrow, then the next day. Now all we can do is do our best to try and land on our feet."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

No Go Largo Village units condemned, displacing families 10/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 1:51pm]

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