Despite Pleas, Brothers With Disabilities Set To Lose Home
Three brothers who have been fighting for the right to remain in their filthy, dilapidated house likely will see it demolished in the next few weeks.
The Columbus, Ohio code-enforcement administrator says the family homestead — the only home that Fred, Harry and Chris Klein had ever known — could be torn down as soon as Aug. 26.
On June 19, Franklin County Environmental Judge Dan Hawkins ruled the frame house unsafe and authorized the city to raze it at the owners’ expense.
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Harry, 68, said he and his brothers — all of whom have developmental disabilities and no income other than modest Social Security payments — are devastated.
The court’s offer to let them remove some of their belongings means little, he said. “We ain’t got nowhere to go with it. What’s the use of taking things you can’t keep?”
The Kleins have been staying with their sister, Mary McConnahea, next door since the city ordered the cluttered house vacated. McConnahea said the arrangement was supposed to last a month but has dragged on for more than a year.
Her brothers “don’t know anywhere but this street,” she said. “They go to the store, the drugstore and right back. They don’t read and write so well. They were raised right here.”
The brothers once worked as ride operators at the old Gooding Amusement Park next to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. They jointly own the house that belonged first to their grandparents, then to their parents.
Kevin Craine, a lawyer who is the court-appointed guardian for Harry and for 71-year-old Fred, filed an emergency waiver request through the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities that was approved by the state Thursday afternoon.
The Medicaid waiver doesn’t cover rent, but it can be used to pay for the help the brothers need to live in the community, said Jed Morison, superintendent of the disabilities board.
“This is the next step in the process to obtain a safe and healthy residential placement for Fred and Harry,” Craine wrote in an email. “The ultimate goal will be to provide a supported living environment which includes suitable housing with a full array of supportive services from a certified provider.”
The youngest brother, Chris, 59, has declined help from the disabilities board and did not attend the recent court hearings. Morison said he still might be able to live with Fred and Harry.
“Our service coordinators will try to find something in the area if at all possible,” Morison said.
The Klein house was first declared a public nuisance years ago, and the brothers have been cited for contempt numerous times for code violations. The house is full of junk and debris and is falling apart.
They probably will be charged for the demolition — costs typically fall between $15,000 and $25,000 — unless the city waives that charge in exchange for receiving the property.
Harry still doesn’t understand why their house must go while other ramshackle structures remain in their blighted neighborhood west of Downtown. “Look across the street,” he said.
Asked if he and his brothers are willing to move elsewhere, Harry smiled and said, “Maybe we’ll just buy a piece of ground and put a tent on it.”