‘You’re not just going to uproot me, you’re going to kill me’: Haven of Mercy residents appeal to Board of Dwelling Standards

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – For the first time since Johnson City has declared the Haven of Mercy homeless shelter uninhabitable by humans, residents spoke out.

During a Thursday night special called meeting of the Johnson City Board of Dwelling Standards and Review, residents of the shelter appealed to board members to keep the building open for habitation while it is being brought up to code.

“I don’t see any reason to uproot all the guys that live there to do the repairs. It just doesn’t make any sense,” Scott Walter, resident and director of Haven of Mercy told the board.

Three residents spoke to the board, along with multiple representatives of the shelter.

Kevin Kerstiens has lived there for 20 years. He has lymphoma, so he asked the board to let residents stay while renovations take place.

“You’re not just going to uproot me, you’re going to kill me. That’s basically what it comes down to. A person should have a right to live where they want to but they should also have a right to die where they want to,” Kerstiens said.

An architect told the board problems with the building could be fixed while residents remain.

The board voted to keep Haven of Mercy open and for building documentation to be discussed at the next board meeting on March 25.

The architect hired by the shelter to work on renovations said even by that March 25 meeting, he won’t have answers about all the necessary repairs, but he does hope to have documents ready to begin the process of complying with city safety requirements.

For the 35 people still living at the Haven of Mercy homeless shelter, board members let it be known – they’re very concerned.

“For people to live in this property, in what we consider an unsafe condition and that it a big concern of mine,” Jenny Lockmiller, Johnson City Board of Dwelling Standards and Review chair said during the meeting.

Watch the full meeting by CLICKING HERE.

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