HINTON - Five people, including two children, are left homeless after their houses in Hinton were condemned for safety reasons.
Residents Roena Ponce and Jill Thompson said officials told them Monday that their HUD-approved house may not be safe to live in because the foundation appeared to be moving. Then the gas and power companies cut off power Wednesday after determining a main line could break if the buildings moved anymore, according to Mayor Joe Blankenship, which prompted city officials to condemn the houses.
"I just couldn't live with myself if someone is living in a home and it falls and someone gets killed and we did not act,” said Blankenship, explaining the decision to condemn. “So I would rather be safe than sorry."
Blankenship said eight buildings were condemned -- seven were for safety reasons, of which two buildings had residents living in them.
Ponce and Thompson have witnessed foundation issues that developed since they moved into the house, but they said a water main break on December 30 escalated issues, leading to the further movement of the wall and front yard from the water run-off.
"I feel at a loss,” Thompson said. “I feel helpless. Even though there are steps being taken to make things correct, I still feel as if I'm in a rut."
Blankenship said the ground beneath a nearby alleyway has been shifting for at least six months. He wonders if that could eventually move the houses from their foundations, which is one of the reasons why he chose to condemn the buildings.
Ponce said her former house was the first one she lived in on her own. “I’ve worked so hard to take care of my house,” she said. “It’s just bad.”
To add insult to injury, Ponce and Thompson’s house was burglarized earlier in the week. Officer Patrick Hepner with the Hinton Police said officers caught the man responsible and are investigating the incident.
The American Red Cross contacted the families to offer assistance. Blankenship said engineers from the West Virginia Division of Highways are being brought in to help determine what steps to take for the properties.