Mouseholes by the floorboards, boxes overflowing with trash, exposed wiring and pools of stagnant water. These weren't the conditions Tamara Cantarell dreamed for herself and her four children, but it's all she could afford.
"It's really just uninhabitable," she said.
Cantarell is one of the 280 people living in these deplorable conditions inside a shuttered college dormitory in the City of San Bernardino. With rent between $600-700 a month and no credit check required, many like the mother of four only came to the former American Sports University building as a last resort.
"This was a last resort and we had to make do with what we had," Cantarell said.
However, with code enforcement falling just short of condemning the building, the city is taking the property owner to court. They are trying to give him 21 days to relocate residents at his expense.
"So many people don't have the money yet to move," said resident Carl Leonard. "And some of these people might end up on the streets."
But according to city spokesperson Jeff Krause, San Bernardino will help every resident relocate, even if it takes more time.
"There's no way the City of San Bernardino can shut a building down with 200 people and say 'You're on your own. Go out in the streets,'" he said.
Krause added that the building was never permitted for apartment living and the owner is exploiting the vulnerable people who live there. He also said the city won't leave them stranded and promised housing vouchers for everyone being relocated.
"We'll take care of them first," he said.
The building controller said he has tried to make repairs but the owner has a cash flow problem only exacerbated by vandalism on the former dormitory.
"There's a lot of blame on the owners," said building manager Jeffrey Young. "I mean we did our best."
Young agreed that the building is not a safe place for anyone to live. He's asked for more time, a month or two, to get families to safer places.
"Let them find someplace to live," said Young. "There is no affordable housing in San Bernardino."
City officials plan on getting a temporary restraining order against the building owners.
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