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Harrison House shut down

Harrison House shut down
Harrison House shut down
Harrison County Sheriff's Dept. Chief Rodney (Rod) Seelye, Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk, Harrison Township Fire Dept. Chief Jon Saulman and others speak with Harrison House residents Thursday afternoon after the apartment-style home was shut down and evacuated. Photos by Ross Schulz

The apartment-style structure at 219 N. Oak St. in downtown Corydon, known as the Harrison House, was shut down Thursday by local authorities after approval from the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Displaced residents were housed at Baymont Wyndam in Corydon until arrangements could be made for them to live elsewhere, whether with family, friends or help from numerous agencies and community-minded organizations.
According to David Hosick, public information officer for the Indiana Dept. of Homeland Security (State Fire Marshal’s Office), the closure was initiated based on a change of use from a single-family residence to a Class I structure.
‘The location had not obtained a variance nor filed plans with the state to reclassify this structure,’ he said. ‘Code Enforcement officials visited the location and confirmed serious code violations related to life/safety requirements. This was in addition to the fact that the proper paperwork or variance had never been submitted or approved. Primarily, this was due to the fact that the residence had been converted into multiple sleeping rooms, thereby making it something other than a single-family residence.’
Jon Saulman, chief of the Harrison Township Fire Dept., said, other than the zoning classification issues, the facility lacks proper sprinkler systems/fire suppression as required for multi-family use, as determined during a building inspection on Feb. 14.
‘Our overall interest is the safety of the occupants,’ Saulman said. ‘This is an unfortunate situation for all involved, but I feel confident we have taken steps to avoid the possibility of a fire-related death in the future.’
Saulman said he was not sure why the classification was overlooked in the past.
‘But, to me, it has brought a huge safety concern to light,’ he said.
The structure housed between 20 to 30 people, some of whom said they had places lined up to stay while others said they did not.
Robert, a resident who is originally from Crawford County, said he does not have anywhere to go when the hotel stay ends.
‘I’ll have to get on it,’ he said of finding other living arrangements.
Robert has a job working for an independent trash company and has lived at the Harrison House for five or six months, paying a weekly rate of $80.
Another resident said he does have a place to go but wishes they would have had some warning about the eviction so he could have been better prepared.
Others were scrambling Friday to get out their belongings. Access Storage donated space for residents to temporarily put their things, and the Harrison County Chaplain’s Association helped coordinate the removal of items.
The sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office split the cost of the hotel stay for the residents through today (Wednesday), and a number of individuals and groups helped with meals.
‘Regardless of where blame lies, the fact is that several people are left without shelter and their lives are in disarray,’ Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk said. ‘One of the most amazing things about Harrison County is its ability to rally around those that need help the most. Led by the efforts of many in the faith-based community, short-term lodging has been made possible, but funding is running out. If you have a dollar to spare, please consider making a donation.’
Schalk said checks can be made payable to 4:34 Ministries and write ‘Harrison House’ in the memo field. Those checks can be dropped off at the Macy House, located at 270 Wyandotte Ave., in Corydon or they can be mailed to P.O. Box 3072, Corydon, IN 47112.
‘As a community, we can do better than allowing this humanitarian crisis to continue on our watch,’ Schalk said.
Officials with 4:34 Ministries said they will partner with One Church and others to maintain the residents until a permanent solution can be found.
Many local churches passed an extra collection plate to be used to help the former residents.
In 2014, a fire on the second floor of the Harrison House temporarily displaced residents.
The building opened as a hotel in the mid-1920s.
The owner of the building, Jeff Wiley, declined comment, per legal advice. He can appeal the closure, according to state fire marshal’s office.