This article first appeared on Orlando Sentinel.
The final beleaguered families of the decrepit Star Motel in Kissimmee — with no power, running water or working sewer system — are being rescued this week by Osceola County and local nonprofits, one of which is hoping to buy a hotel of its own to use for affordable housing.
“It’s horrible there. It’s just absolutely horrible. Those families don’t deserve to live like that,” said the Rev. Mary Lee Downey, CEO of the Community Hope Center, noting the motel is facing foreclosure after racking up $2,000-per-day fines for a long list of code violations. “I couldn’t take it any longer, knowing there were babies living in that place.”
The center had previously moved eight families into apartments and rental homes from the motel, where electricity was first shut off temporarily last December after the motels' owners stopped paying utility bills. Power was later restored, then cut off again, and in the summer, the water was shut off, too. The Community Hope Center had continued trying to relocate the remaining households, but it struggled to find affordable housing options.
Then sewage started backing up in some of the residents' rooms last weekend.
“I had to get people out," Downey said.
Early this week, the charity joined county officials, the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida and the Health Care Center for the Homeless to relocate another 20 households willing to leave. A half-dozen stayed behind, apparently distrustful of the offer.