MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — City officials in Muskegon Heights condemned a building on Wednesday that had 15 residents because it had no electricity and, they say, dangerous living conditions. In doing so, all the residents were displaced from their homes.
The residence at 309 East Hackley Ave. is owned by James Duncan, a pastor at Revival Miracle Temple. Duncan says that he was trying to fix the building and bring the conditions up to code.
"We still worked on that building just about every day," Duncan said. "I know a lot of buildings way worse. That building has never been no terrible building."
City investigators were alerted by the Michigan Child Protective Services that the building was without power. Muskegon Heights Fire Chief Christopher Dean said that officials found a number of issues, including the use of a commercial stove in one part of the building for heat.
"It was over 200 degrees in the room where the stove was located 10 minutes after we arrived," Dean said. "The increase in carbon dioxide due to the complete combustion that would've caused a issue potential hazard with asphyxiation."
On Wednesday at 6 p.m., officials went door-to-door and notified all the residents that they needed to find somewhere else to live. By 10 p.m. Duncan boarded up the exterior doors.
Duncan said he's been working on that building for a long time while helping people who have hit hard times by giving them a place to live. But after the residence condemned, Duncan said he feels targeted by the city.
"Do I hold any grudges, nope. But do I think they are picking, yes," he said. "Because I would never do anything to hurt anybody in any kind of way, shape or form."
Dean said Muskegon Heights has tried to work with Duncan to solve these problems for more than a year. In November, the city filed a complaint against Duncan, alleging he illegally rented out units, violated zoning ordinances and failed to maintain the building.
"Each time we come in to inspect the condition continues to diminish," said Dean. "This is not us selecting someone out individually, there is a series of problems that we have made a diligent effort in taking care of."
Dean said that the residents shared a kitchen and a couple of bathrooms. He shared photos of the residence with 13 ON YOUR SIDE that showed its condition, including exposed wires and the shared spaces.
City officials acknowledged that they displaced residents from their homes just before the holidays. But they said if they had not taken action, the results could have been tragic.
"We could not have responsibly allowed them to stay another night there under those circumstances," Dean said.
Dean said that the city directed the residents to resources that would help them find a place to live, but the residents and Duncan said it wasn't enough because of how quickly they had to vacate.
"If the city is saying I was no good for the building then at least care about your citizens," he said.
Duncan has taken in six of the displaced residents.
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