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Health dept. sends violations to wrong person, community gathers to help elderly woman fix up home

Posted at 5:01 PM, Nov 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-07 19:14:38-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- An 80-year-old woman spent hundreds of dollars on home repairs after receiving a 30-day notice from the health department that was meant for someone else.

Christ Community Baptist Church Pastor John Girton said Smith was spreading concrete with her fingers to make those repairs to her home.

Lois Smith received a note from the Marion County Public Health Department telling her she had 30 days to fix 9 different violations, including huge overhauls to her porch and chimney, or she would face up to a $2,500 fine.

Christ Community Baptist Church Pastor John Girton said Smith was spreading concrete with her fingers to make those repairs to her home, posting a video to social media of what he found.

“It makes no sense for her to be out here, trying to put cement in cracks at the base of her house," Pastor Girton said in his video.

But it turns out; Smith’s home wasn’t in violation at all.

RTV6 reached out to the health department – and found out that the notice was actually meant for Smith’s neighbor, who now lives in Texas.

Juli Gonyou with the health department said that it was an “administrative error” and a rare one at that.

“It’s extremely rare, I’ve worked for the health department for 17 years and I would say it’s happened less than 5 times,” said Gonyou.

Smith was happy to hear she was off the hook, but the wheels had already been put into motion.

Pastor Girton’s passion-filled words prompted community members to answer the call – even after hearing about the health department’s mix-up.

Community members came together to fix up Smith’s property, from repainting her porch to getting the trash out of her gutters, all of them lending a hand in their neighbor’s time of need.

“To see these people that could find something else to do. That come out and try to be a blessing to someone else, is something else. And I thank you, and I thank everybody,” Smith said through tears.

The health department encourages anyone who receives a violation like Smith’s to reach out to their housing and neighborhood health division before making repairs.

There are also resources available to help make those repairs before the 30-day deadline. You can reach them at (317) 221-2150.