Jacksonville veteran worried about losing home | News
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Volunteers in Jacksonville's historic Springfield neighborhood are facing what they call a major setback.
"It makes me angry," said Gloria DeVall with Preservation SOS (Save Our Springfield).
For about one month, close to 100 people have been giving up their own time and money to help John Foster and his daughter, Doris, 53.
First Coast News first told you about Foster, 87, in May when the Korean War veteran found himself on the brink of having to sell the house on Market Street he's lived in for 41 years.
"We've been nervous about this ever since it came up," he said.
Foster is disabled and lives on a fixed income. As a result, he said he hasn't been able to pay or make repairs to the more than 100-year-old house in several years.
In April, the City of Jacksonville warned Foster he was going to be fined $250 a day if he did not comply with its new Urban Blight code enforcement initiative.
The initiative aims to clean up unsightly properties around the city that do not comply with city code.
Knowing he could not afford the penalties, Preservation SOS, a local non-profit, organized helpers to paint, prime and pressure wash the home out of the goodness of their hearts.
Each person was touched by Foster's story and hoped their work would bring him back into compliance with the city.
"All throughout this process, he's been very afraid that he was going to end up homeless," DeVall said.
But First Coast News has learned the exact opposite has happened.
"They're saying what we've done isn't good enough," DeVall said.
The city's neighborhoods department issued a report this month that stated Foster's house was still in violation of three city codes. Specifically, it said the house needed more exterior repairs, including paint and a pressure wash.
DeVall said that's work that's already been completed.
"They don't need to bully anybody into compliance. They need to help people come into compliance," said said.
Now, the Fosters are on edge all over again. They said they don't want to pick a fight with the city.
Their primary goal is keeping the place they love to call home.
"I just want to live here. I've been sitting on this porch for 41 years," Foster said.
Jacksonville Public Communications Officer Kristen Sell issued this statement to First Coast News in response to our request for comment:
The City appreciates all the work that has been done at the home at 1521 Market St. and the progress that has been made. However, there are minimum code standards that still need to be met, as outlined in the notice. The notice allows the work to continue up until the date that will be given for the homeowner to appear before the municipal code special magistrate. These standards protect the quality of life in the neighborhood.
It's expected Foster's hearing before the special magistrate will be held later this summer. DeVall remains confident all fines and penalties will be dropped.
"I'm confident he won't be fined," she said.