LISBON - The man who owned the house used as a homeless shelter in East Liverpool that was relocated to Lisbon this year told village officials their concerns are valid.
James Salvatore attended this week's Village Council meeting to tell them about his experience during the time the Community Action Agency operated a federally funded homeless shelter in an East Liverpool home he owns. The house had been a shelter for about five years when Salvatore said he purchased it in 2000.
He said the residents, who can only stay at the shelter for up to 30 days, chopped up furniture to use for a bonfire in the yard, ripped down medicine cabinets, vandalized the basement shower, tore out window screens and left cigarette burns on the bathroom sink, floor and window sills. The carpeting had to be replaced frequently and empty alcoholic beverage bottles could be found everywhere.
"That's the caliber of the people they have in there ... The people in there don't care about the facility," Salvatore said, adding he paid the utilities and the residents frequently turned the thermostat up to 80 degrees and opened the windows.
A group of Maple Street residents attended the Jan. 24 council meeting to express their concerns about the 13-bed shelter opening in their neighborhood. Salvatore and his wife, Beverly, were upset the story about that meeting suggested one of the reasons the shelter was relocated to Lisbon was because they had been negligent landlords.
"I was appalled when I read the article in the paper. We were not slumlords by any means ... I know how much money we put into that house," Mrs. Salvatore said.
Salvatore believes part of the problem is the only homeless people banned from the premise are registered sex offenders and those convicted of a violent crime, "which means you are going to get people in there with drug problems and who were arrested for drugs. I was told they couldn't keep them out."
"They mentioned they had a (10 p.m.) curfew. They never enforced it," he said.
The same thing with the policy prohibiting the homeless from congregating on the front porch. "The gang on the porch always attracted people in cars," Salvatore said, adding he could see how someone would view this as an indication of drug activity. "But I can honestly say it wasn't a drug house."
Occupants were also required to perform household chores while staying there, which was disputed by Mrs. Salvatore. "Nobody cleaned up in there. It was awful," she said.
As for the occupants, "there's always problems between the residents. There's always conflict with the people living there," he said.
Salvatore said neighbors told him they had things turn up missing from their property but they had no evidence anyone living at the shelter was responsible. One of the first occupants at the Lisbon shelter was arrested within two days for shoplifting, but criminal charges are grounds for an automatic expulsion from the shelter.
The situation had deteriorated to the point where Salvatore said he was contemplating ending the relationship when the CAA advised him the lease would not be renewed.
Salvatore believes much of the problem is poor supervision, adding the CAA caseworkers assigned to check on the residents and the house were not very responsive.
"My biggest concern is you need to keep an eye on it and if you have a problem you need to call" the CAA executive director, Salvatore said.
After the Salvatores were finished, Mayor Dan Bing said, "It looks like we're going to have to talk to the CAA to get someone to monitor that home so it doesn't become a detriment to the community."