A 90-year-old widow in Sarasota said she is now afraid of losing her home of 70 years as she faces thousands of dollars in code violations.
Built in 1952, Marie Louise Sikorski's home has seen better days. However, this is where she's determined to stay.
"As long as we possibly can," she said.
The 90-year-old lives on a fixed income of $1,000/month. Her plans have always included living out her retirement in the home which her family purchased so long ago, according to her neighbors.
Marie Louise's husband, an air force veteran, died 14 years ago and in that time, their home of several decades has fallen into disrepair. About two years ago, neighbors lodged complaints with the City of Sarasota regarding her property, she said, which resulted in building code violations.
"Not scary, just aggravating," Marie Louise said.
As Marie Louise's bills piled up, the young man staying next door said he knew he couldn't just sit by and do nothing.
"Someone needed to step in and help her because the city wasn't going to," said Miles G., a traveling nurse.
Miles ended up doing some of the repairs himself and had various contractors come in to do the rest. This included power washing the roof, replacing shingles and siding, cleaning up the yard and more. However, Miles said the city has not yet accepted the repairs, as they are required to be completed by a licensed contractor, so Sikorski is still facing $500/day in fees. He said at this point, the fees amount to around $150,000.
There is also a possibility that neighbors will lodge new complaints against her property, resulting in new fees, Miles said.
He put up signs in Marie Louise's yard, saying "I'M A 90 YEAR OLD WIDOW. I'VE LIVED HERE 70 YEARS. NOW THE CITY OF SARASOTA IS TRYING TO STEAL MY HOUSE! HELP!"
The signs have attracted a lot of attention to Marie Louise's code violation problem and neighbors have started frequently stopping by with offers to help.
Business owners like Jack Rice, from Super Pavers in Sarasota, stopped by Monday offering to give Marie Louise a new, free driveway.
"Anything we can do to help her, we'd be happy to, and this guy is just awesome," he said, eager to follow in Miles' example.
On Twitter, the City of Sarasota said they have no interest in taking anyone's home and only got involved because of neighbor complaints and safety concerns.
— City of Sarasota (@CityofSarasota) May 30, 2016
Now, Miles is hoping with the attention Marie Louise has gotten, the city will do more than just address her specific problem.
"More than just her getting to keep her house, and all the fines being dissolved, I hope that they reevaluate their plans to deal with situations like this," Miles said.
Miles and Marie Louise said they plan to discuss this issue with the city of Sarasota Tuesday. The city has said they plan to handle her case in a fair and compassionate way.
Miles has helped start a Go Fund Me page for Marie Louise and said the funds may be used for any additional repairs required on her home, to pay fines on her home so it is not seized, retain an attorney to attempt to reduce fines or to pay property taxes.