13 Venezuelan migrants, including 9 kids, found living in unsafe conditions in Hammond basement

Maher Kawash Image
Friday, April 5, 2024
13 migrants found living in unsafe conditions in NW Indiana basement
Police found 13 Venezuelan migrants in Hammond, Indiana, living in what they described as deplorable conditions in a basement.

HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- Hammond police described deplorable living conditions for the 13 people found in a basement of a home on a block of Indiana Street.

Police said nine children, ranging from 2 months to 14 years old, were among that group.

A city order was posted on the Hammond home, now deemed uninhabitable, as police say they found 13 Venezuelan migrants in the basement on Tuesday.

The city said officers responded to a call of an unrelated overdose at the home, and when they got there, they were told about people living in the basement.

"It was more that it could be dangerous. Extension cords, there's no exits, there's no windows, the roof wasn't even tall enough for me to stand in there," said Hammond Police Public Information Officer Steve Kellogg.

The city said there were additional fire hazards with the individuals using an open flame in a small area of the basement.

ABC7 stopped by the home on Friday, and the man living there refused to comment.

The city said the migrants are OK, but Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott called this entire situation unacceptable.

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"I feel horrible about the whole situation. I'm a human being. And obviously, this is, it's heartbreaking. Every time it's real cold out, I am fearful what's going on in the streets of Chicago with democracy. It's a very sad situation," McDermott said.

Other people living on the street were shocked to hear about this, saying the man who lives at the home often stays to himself.

"I mean, it's crazy because, as him living by himself, he comes in and out his house, but more than that, we've never seen the kids. They've never come out, so we never found out there were kids or more people in the house," neighbor Melissa Hernandez said.

The city said that the living arrangements for the Venezuelan migrants were organized by a pastor at an East Chicago, Indiana church. The pastor did not return ABC7's request for comment.

"I don't know the pastor personally, and I'm sure the pastor is a compassionate person. He's trying to do the right thing, and I'm not faulting ambassador for that. But what the pastor did was he placed those two families in a very dangerous living situation," McDermott said.

Police are still investigating to see if criminal charges will be necessary.

There's now a city notice to evacuate or solve the issues at the home by April 12. The mayor is not sure where the migrants will be moved to.