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City tackling squatters in vacant homes - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

City tackling squatters in vacant homes

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

People squatting in vacant homes could've cost a police officer his life last week.
     
When an old Greenville home caught fire, he charged in thinking someone might be in there.
     
Squatting is a problem in communities all across the East. And as we saw firsthand, it's a potentially dangerous one.

Thankfully no one was inside that century-old home on 5th Street, but it got 9 On Your Side thinking about all the squatters who are taking up residence at abandoned buildings around town.

9 On Your Side spent the day with Greenville Code Enforcement officers who say there are a handful of houses in every neighborhood that are susceptible to squatters.
     
They say when absentee homeowners die, the property usually gets heired to a family member who doesn't even know it exists.
     
At one boarded up house on Myrtle Street, set for demolition to make way for the 10th Street Connector, a peek inside revealed someone has been living inside for a while with nothing more than a mattress.
     
Code Enforcement Officer A. J. Basile says the unsafe living conditions are an accident waiting to happen.

"These houses are so old, and parts of them are deteriorated enough where they just become a fire hazard in and of itself and all it takes is someone lighting a candle or a cigarette and walking away. And this place will go up fairly quickly," Basile told 9 On Your Side.

The officers secured the back door for a second time. But Lt. Richard Allsbrook says it's a temporary solution to a much bigger problem.

"It's really symptomatic of the issues that go along with homelessness to include alcohol, substance abuse, mental health issues," he says.

Basile adds, 'No one should be living in a place like this…No one."

The officers did not find the person who appeared to be living in the abandoned house on Myrtle Street. But they say if caught, a squatter could face criminal charges of trespassing or breaking and entering.

Still, they often try to connect the person with a homeless shelter or other services that could help them.

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