|505 Northampton, crumbling brick|
Unlike me, Christina Georgiou is an honest-to-goodness journalist. She's worked for the Express Times, was Editor at Easton News and a Patch contributor. Her blog, Easton Eccentric, is strangely bereft of opinion. Just the facts, ma'am. But Georgiou has weighed in here with a mix of facts and opinions concerning the conditions at the inmate program run by Northampton County Jail chaplain Chris Santos.
You see, she lives in that neighborhood.
Since Santos sympathizers have challenged my journalistic integrity, I'll share what a real journalist has to say about what she has seen with her own two eyes.
|Walls pinned to floors to prevent collapse|
The concept that this building has passed required city code inspections is completely bogus. I can't speak to whether or not it actually was inspected (though I tend to think not, as the city is currently pursuing a warrant for inspection purposes), but I know for a fact that it is in violation of the city's landlord licensing program.
The last time I witnessed a possible emergency at 505 Northampton St., I watched EFD hesitate before entering the building. Fire, it seems, is something they thankfully can deal with. The possibility of imminent collapse, and rightfully so, had them apparently a little more worried. (I assume this by the fact that they donned their helmets, but not other gear, along with their gesturing at the huge crack in the side of the building, and a visible team conference on the sidewalk, before entering. And, BTW, the EFD did enter the building, and they get even more of my admiration for their bravery. Fighting fires, and it's attendant dangers, though also with much educated knowledge and caution of the risks involved, it seems, has NOTHING on the concept of the unknowns involved with unassassed structural deficiencies. Seriously, brave folks. You couldn't PAY me, or most residents on this block, to enter that structure.)
|missing bricks at top of crumbling western wall|
This guy told me the reason he moved out was because a piece of a windowsill fell on his head one night while he was sleeping. Indoors.
He also informed me the reason no one lives on the fourth floor is because it is uninhabitable--the roof leaks that badly.
|just a tad cracked|
Between the fact that he feared for his physical safety, as well as took issue with the religious indoctrination he was obligated to undergo as part of the deal, he left, saying he would rather face homelessness and the possible parole violation than stay any longer. BTW, the guy had some serious religious convictions, which he also conveyed to me. He added that he was fine with attending bible study and church services, but that he felt he couldn't keep them or pray on his own (his words) under the "Chris Santos program," and this was a problem.
At the time I met him, earlier this spring, he was living at the Bartlett, which he said wasn't great, but was "The Ritz" compared to the conditions at 505 Northampton St. (If you know the Bartlett, that says something!)
|gaping hole in base of western wall|
Question what's going on across the street (or lack thereof, like basic structural maintenance, for what is decades now), that is undoubtedly endangering the residents? YES! That building is a serious hazard that could and probably will kill people, if something isn't done in time.
Oh, and the one answer I got one day talking to a "volunteer" who was directing illegal, incompetent, after-hours work going on there, "Don't worry about it, God will take care of us"?
Yah, sure, but only if you're misguided enough to believe you're going to heaven after you let a once-beautiful, completely neglected-for-all-the-decades-you've-owned-it (except for collecting the rent) and structurally deficient (and now sadly probably beyond repair), 130-year-old apartment building kill your tenants when it collapses one day. I suppose it's one way to get them closer to God, but I suspect it's not exactly the way He was hoping for.
Living on this block, I can attest that 505 Northampton St. is a serious detriment to the community.
Since the residents are rarely seen or heard from, I doubt most people knew the Rock Church or Chris Santos' is getting funds from the county for released prisoners' housing. While it's known that Santos does prison ministry work, the on-the-street story has been that he "allows" the residents to stay there, and the presumption has been little or no rent. To hear otherwise is interesting, to say the least.
More interesting is that especially for such a deplorable building, he's apparently getting better than market value for spaces that should officially be deemed inhabitable for human habitation.
As I said, I live on this block, and though I'm not a construction engineer, my father was. It's my personal contention that this building is in serious danger of imminent collapse, which I've been photographically documenting for about the last year or so.
The western wall is of particular concern--it is peeling away from the rest of the structure and bricks fall from it regularly. Other than the people that have the misfortune to live there, NO ONE on this block will even walk on the sidewalk on that side of the street--the building is that scary.
The Rock Church folks know that the building is in trouble, but instead of doing the right thing, they have engaged in several illegal, after-hours amateur attempts to pin the wall to the second, third and fourth floors to stabilize it. But these efforts are not only not working, they may very well have served to further undermine the building's structural integrity.
I've sent the evidence to the city's planning commission as I've seen changes, to aid with their quest to legally get this place shut down. But it seems the court process is very, very slow in cases like this, to everyone's frustration.
Wherever they've been or bad choices or mistakes they've made, the residents of this building aren't a problem in the immediate community--but this building and the lack of decades' worth of proper maintenance, along with the social issues now raised in the coverage of Chris Santos' operating procedures on Lehigh Valley Ramblings, most definitely are.
505 Northampton Street is one of the properties listed by Rock Church as part of its "Men's Community House." I've pulled a contract with an inmate released to Rock Church (you can see it here). You have to agree "to change your life through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Rent is $400 per month, along with a $100 non-refundable entrance fee. No dating. No secular music. Disclosure of all income, including gifts.
Updated 2:07 AM, to include photos supplied by Christina Georgiou. Thanks, Christina.