BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — Eighteen homeless families have been moved out of rooms at the Days Inn, following complaints to the Board of Health about “chronic dampness.”
Health Director Peter Mirandi said the complaints started in the fall, a time when windows and doors are kept closed with the cool weather. Residents complained about mold and dampness in the rooms and children suffering upper respiratory infections, Mirandi said.
The Board of Health cited the motel for providing inadequate ventilation. The problem arose, he said, as a result of people showering, bathing, cooking and doing laundry “in a room that is designed for overnight guests,” not long-term stays.
Many homeless families wind up stuck in one room for months. The rooms have one small ventilator in the bathroom, Mirandi said.
Eventually, the Board of Health took the motel to court. The property owner, Dilip Realty, disputed the allegations, but agreed to hire a professional to study what could be done. The town agreed to reinspect the motel by Dec. 12. If the inspection was unsatisfactory, the court ordered, a consultant would be hired to figure out how to resolve the problem.
Both sides are due back in court Wednesday.
State sanitary code says rooms must be kept free of “chronic dampness,” which is defined as “the regular and/or periodic appearance of moisture, water, mold or fungi.”
Mirandi showed a reporter pictures of water beading on the inside of windows, including one with a curtain matted up against a window. He also showed condensation dripping from what appeared to be a hinge or a fixture. Mirandi said he saw black mold spots around windows and heating units.
The board identified 18 rooms scattered throughout the motel where homeless families were living and dampness appeared to be a problem. The problem was resolved, Mirandi said, when families living in those rooms were moved out. He credited state Rep. Ted Speliotis with helping to resolve the issue.
The numbers of homeless families at the Days Inn has dropped from 66 in January to 40 this week, Mirandi said.
Speliotis said he first heard of the problem at a Board of Health meeting more than a month ago on an unrelated matter. Since the state is picking up the tab to shelter homeless families in the motel, Speliotis said the state could do something to help.
“We pay the bill,” Speliotis said, “if we pay the bill, we have a lot more leverage than the town has.”
Speliotis said he called the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the shelter program, and the result was that the families in those rooms were moved out.
Speliotis said the state has committed to moving every family out of the motel in the next few months as it winds down a program of using motels as emergency shelters.
An attorney for Days Inn could not be reached yesterday for comment. Two messages seeking comment from Days Inn manager John Jalbert were not returned as of press time.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.