SOUTH BEND — A former South Bend nursing home that now is a dorm for migrant workers weary after a day in the fields is drawing scrutiny from city officials, who question whether the building is safe.
City officials say the building lacks a fire sprinkler system. The nursing home was allowed to operate without one because it opened before the requirement took effect, but now that the use of the 1968 building has changed, that exemption doesn't apply, building commissioner Chuck Bulot told the South Bend Tribune.
"We want to make sure people in this county are safe when they are in a public building," Bulot said.
Bulot said building owners have said they plan to use the former West Park Health Care Facilities as migrant worker housing until Aug. 22. The long-term plan for the building, which is owned by MFC South Bend Holdings LLC, is to install a sprinkler system and reopen the building as a managed-care facility.
Representatives for MFC did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Bulot has sent a notice to MFC to cease the operation. The company has 10 days to respond to the initial notice, but Bulot said the process could take a month. That means the workers may not have to vacate before their scheduled August departure.
That's welcome news for Juan Carlos, a 25-year-old from Veracruz, Mexico, who said through an interpreter that he likes staying in the air--conditioned building.
Most of the residents staying in the building rent-free are men, though there are a handful of families. They are in the area for the harvest season.
Each bedroom has its own bathroom, but there are communal showers down the hall; a couple of people share each room. Elkhart-based Servants of the Streets Ministries serves a hot meal each night.
City officials plan to meet Tuesday to discuss the issue.