COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Police continue to investigate after they say a 13-year-old autistic boy was found living among rodents and feces. Officers say those kind of unlivable conditions are more common than you might think.
Besides that home on Corinth Drive, belonging to former city council member Charles Wingate and his wife, there are more than 90 homes designated as condemned in Colorado Springs.
"I've seen worse," said Colorado Springs code enforcement administrator Ken Lewis when asked about the conditions at Wingate's house.
Police said they found live and dead rodents, human feces and stacks of trash at Wingate's home. Lewis estimated that officers find those kind of conditions every other month.
"It occurs from the Broadmoor to Rockrimmon to Briargate," said Lewis. "I mean, there's no specific place you find these houses."
After a resident is notified their home is condemned, they're given time to clean up. Code enforcement said while the city doesn't have resources to assist with cleaning, help is out there for people. Lewis said North Springs Alliance Church and Silver Key Senior Services often assist.
"At some point, if (a resident) is not cooperating, we'll put (the home) on the dilapidated building list which causes inspection fees to start every quarter," said Lewis. "So every quarter, we would re-inspect and charge $500. A lot of time that motivates people to bring us a compliance plan and start the clean up process."
But some simply refuse.
In one neighborhood off of Woodmen Road, people told of their elderly neighbor whose house has been condemned for more than a year. They said the man continues to live there, in violation of the law, and they fear the rodents, trash and waste behind the walls.
Some people abandon their property after it's condemned.
"Sometimes the houses stay there like that and if they're not affecting the neighborhood around them, there's not much we can do," said Lewis.
We found an empty home on Cucharras Street that was condemned nearly a decade ago.
"Last summer there was a fire," said Stacy Harbin, who lives next door. "There are raccoons that live there."
She said she has many worries about the home.
"The roof is starting to fall down in the front and boards occasionally just fall," she said. "Raccoons and the diseases, what they're bringing, because we have cats. Is there a mold problem, are there spores growing?"
Code enforcement said the best thing people can do to help prevent condemned homes is check on their relatives and neighbors, especially the elderly.
"A lot of time, it's just someone showing them some empathy and talking with them," said Lewis. "Help them a little bit. I think they get isolated in their houses and these things just grow and grow and grow."
For the list of condemned properties in Colorado Springs, click on 'Code Enforcement Condemned Property List' near the top of this article.