ROCKFORD (WREX) – For decades people have called the Timberlane Mobile Home Park home. But now, the park sits nearly empty.
Residents were forced out due to what health experts describe as unsafe conditions which created health concerns for people to live there.
“It’s not a lot, but what it is, is ours,” said resident James Brough.
“The health department said the water is broken lines and the landlord won’t fix it because she can’t afford it I guess,” said resident Cheryl Miles.
But what led to these unsafe conditions? 13 Investigates filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the Winnebago County Health Department and found a September 2018 inspection along with subsequent follow-up inspections led to numerous health concerns outlined in a notice sent to owner Sheri Saleh. These violations ranged from garbage visible throughout the park to multiple condemned vacant properties. The most pressing, however, was a failing water system which the health department outlines as “apparent breaks in the private water supply system”.
In that January 23rd, 2019 notice sent to Saleh, the WCHD gave her a date of April 1st, 2019 to fix violations or vacate the property entirely.
“They told us we’d have to be out by the end of March” said Miles .
Saleh declined an interview with 13 WREX, but in a letter she sent to residents she said she could not afford the thousands of dollars worth of repairs, and would have no other choice but to give residents until the end of March to move out.
“I would like an explanation why she didn’t learn more about taking care of property,” said resident Sam Knipprath.
13 Investigates filed a FOIA request with the Illinois Department of Public Health and found Saleh has been running the park without a license since April of 2016.
“She has a big old fancy house and she don’t care about one person out here that loses anything,” said Brough. “We shouldn’t have to lose our homes because of her negligence.”
Residents were left outraged. Scrambling to find a new place to call home.
“They directed us to get help, but we aren’t getting any help at all,” said Brough.
So with no help, people packed up and headed out. Leaving the place they’ve called home for years.
“I’m losing everything,” said Brough. “I got a daughter in there that’s crying because we are losing our home. It’s just not right.”
“I just want to sleep all the time because I’m depressed,” said Miles. “I’ve been here so long now it’s my home it’s only water problems someone should be able to fix that.”
“I’m just disgusted, I’m losing my home,” said Knipprath. “I can’t take it with me.”
According to the Winnebago County Health Department Saleh shut off the water to residents the week of April 1st. A spokesperson for the WCHD says the department estimates there were still about six families on the property following the April 1st deadline. Due to there being no potable water on site for residents, the health department says it was forced to condemn those remaining properties. The Illinois Department of Public Health says it turned the case over the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.