BELLE GLADE, Fla. — A video circulating on social media showing alleged conditions inside a Belle Glade property is leading to action by city officials.
Through his camera lens, Charles Askew, 32, toured the building. He gave WPTV permission to use his TikTok video, where for seven minutes, he took viewers on a walking tour of a rooming house and apartment building along Southwest Sixth Street. Askew said he does not live there.
"No one needs to stay in here man," Askew said. "I seen raw sewage. I seen inadequate bathrooms. I seen unsanitized, unsanitary kitchen. I seen some bad stuff."
Contact 5 stopped by Belle Glade City Hall, where we met with Mayor Steve Wilson, and asked him to watch the video.
"Conditions are really tough. I think they're sharing the bathroom and kitchens," Wilson said. "[It is] concerning to anybody who will witness the conditions that we just saw. That's why we're reaching out to the property owner."
Contact 5 tried unsuccessfully to track down the owner of the building. However, the property manager, who identified himself as Gassan Ali, released the following written statement:
"We will be doing whatever necessary to renovate this property in accordance with the city of Belle Glade."
Wilson told Contact 5 that the owner of the building has permits to address some of the concerns. The mayor said he wants to do away with rooming houses, where people share bathrooms and a kitchen. He estimates only two to three remain in the city and pledged to identify other structures that might need attention.
"The ultimate goal is to make sure we address the concerns, so if there are people living like that in that particular building, obviously there might be some other ones, so our goal is to see if we can tackle these issues at one time," Wilson said.
Contact 5 recently documented life in the Glades where agriculturally abundant lands sprout sugar cane, vegetables and hardship for some.
As WPTV showed you, numbers from the United States Census Bureau for Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay tell a somber story for some people living here. Poverty touches 27% to 40% of the roughly 27,000 residents. In some cases, that's more than three times the county average of 11.4%.
The median household income across Palm Beach County is $70,000 but, in the Glades, it ranges from $28,000 to $40,000.
Askew is now hopeful his video will spark conversation and change for the people who call the building and the community home.
"We got great potential. We got athletes, scholars, doctors, lawyers, but they don't come back once they leave," Askew said.
A city official from Belle Glade told Contact 5 that the owner of the building is contacting a structural engineer to get the building inspected to make sure that it's structurally sound as well as other items that need to be addressed.