GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Dozens of people lost their homes this week when Goldsboro shut down an extended stay motel due to fire hazards.
Fire chief Gary Whaley said the city inspects hotels once a year, but firefighters made an extra visit to Serena Inn this summer after a tenant filed a complaint about the conditions. Inspectors found numerous safety problems, including electrical issues, no fire alarm system, and no working smoke alarms or fire extinguishers.
“It’s safety issues that we’re dealing with. We were kind of forced to take action so that these people will not be at a facility that’s unsafe,” Whaley said.
“It’s a sad situation but it kind of forced our hands,” he said.
City manager Scott Stevens said Goldsboro officials struggle with knowing they are essentially evicting tenants and creating issues for people who really didn’t do anything wrong, but he said its such a hazardous environment. Stevens said the city doesn’t want people to have a tragic end because a safety system isn’t in place.
Inspectors said Serena Inn management failed to fix problems after receiving a warning August 10. The city informed the property owners and the tenants on Tuesday that utility crews would cut power and water to the motel at noon Friday. People were to vacate the premises by then.
About 25 people stood in the heat outside the Serena Inn just after noon as police, firefighters, and inspectors went door to door posting No Trespassing signs.
“A lot of people don’t have cars to get out of here, so I don’t know what they’re going to do. I feel sorry for a lot of these people. The women with the babies is what I am worried about,” Rosie Anderson said.
“There’s two newborn babies in this place, and their parents have no place to go. Why doesn’t somebody from these agencies come and help these people,” she said.
The Housing Authority of the City of Goldsboro does not offer emergency shelter, but the fire chief says his department is trying to help. Whaley said the city is working with social services and faith-based groups to try to provide some short-term assistance.
The city manager said the Salvation Army is working to shelter some people during a transition.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know. Go back to Johnston County, stay at one of my friend’s house, stay in my car. I don’t know,” Anderson said.
Other tenants also said they’d likely have to stay in their cards, but Raul Iglesias said he doesn’t have that as an option.
“If I had a car, I’d stay in my car,” Iglesias said. “A lot of families here with kids that are going to be on the streets.”
Iglesias said he is sad to lose his home, but “unless somebody can do a miracle” he said the shut down needed to happen. He said there’s no hope for the hotel, and believes it needs to be closed down forever.