I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: Homeless after inspection

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Monday, Dec. 17, 2018
News 12 @ 6 O'clock / NBC 26 at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- "We did everything we are supposed to do, and we get punished, " said Latoya Goodwin. "I would have never taken out a title loan on my car to move here for a couple days so we can be homeless again."

Jada Banks and her son Sean are in a similar boat. They hoped they had found a door to a better life. Instead, it was the path to homelessness.

"I thought maybe he would come out and fix it, and I kept begging and asking and sending messages since November 24th. And nobody," said Banks.

She saved to put a deposit down on a home she found online. There was barely enough money left to buy groceries. That's how we met her; she was one of hundreds waiting on DFCS to process her application for food stamps. It was just the tip of an iceberg of problems for this mother and son.

Jada Banks: "We was freezing in here. We were freezing in this place."

No heat.

Liz Owens: "Oh my gosh. Look at it."
Jada Banks: "There is no glass back there so I had to put this board here."

No hot water.

Jada Banks: "Now watch this."
Liz Owens: "That's all the hot water you get?"

No home.

Jada Banks: "He said this is going to be condemned."

Liz Owens: "How long did they give you?"
Jada Banks: "Three days."
Liz Owens: "Three days? Did you tell him you had no place go?"
Jada Banks: "Yeah."
Liz Owens: "What he say?"
Jada Banks: "He said, 'I am sorry. It is the law. I can't let you stay here.'"

Nine days after moving in, she’s moving out. Code Enforcement found lists of violations. For example, there's exposed wire in the building. Code Enforcement says some of the violations make it too dangerous for her and her son to live here. "This is horrible. I feel like a piece of crap, and he says, 'its okay, Mom. It's not your fault,'" said Banks.

She called Code Enforcement to report it. Four days later an inspector condemned it.

Jada Banks: "Me and my son, we have nowhere to go."

We found Latoya Goodwin in the same situation this spring. She found a rental online, too. She called Code Enforcement a week after moving into the home.

Latoya Goodwin: "That took three months."
Liz Owens: "Three months to save up for a deposit a
nd first month's rent?"
Latoya Goodwin: "Yes."
Liz Owens: "Now this place is…"
Latoya Goodwin: "Condemned? Yes."
Liz Owens: "You're homeless?"
Latoya Goodwin: "Yes, right now, with eight children."

Our I-Team exposed Code Enforcement wasn't always enforcing the code. They increased inspections and citations after our investigation eight months ago, but it's a Catch 22. "Inside, I don't know what the next step is for real. I don't have a clue, but I have to try and present. I do something; you don't tell your kids," Jada says.

Families continue to live in dangerous homes or find themselves homeless.

Jada’s son: "Are we going to have a Christmas?"
Jada; "I am going to try my best. I don't know where we are going to be staying at."

This story does have a somewhat happy ending. Jada and Sean moved into a new place this weekend after several kind strangers put them up in a hotel for a few weeks.

What options does the city give them?

It's tough. Code Enforcement is doing what they're supposed to, but there are very few places in Augusta that will take in mothers and children. The only emergency shelter that accepts women and children is the Salvation Army. Space is limited, and for those who have never stayed in a shelter with their children, it can feel a little scary.