STOCKTON (CBS13) – Several safety code violations have been uncovered at a Stockton shelter for women and children in need. The company that runs the shelter, Urojas Community Services, is the same company that runs an Oakland building that caught fire last week. Now Stockton Fire Department is on high alert nine days after four people died in Oakland.
Last week, investigators found several fire hazards in the West Oakland building operated by Urojas Community Services. And three days later, Stockton code enforcement officials paid a visit to another building run by Urojas on California Street.
After the flames died down in Oakland, interest in the building’s tenant began to spark.
“They often move into areas and buildings in depressed neighborhoods,” said James Cook, attorney for Urojas Community Services.
“There needs to be more companies like us that take in people,” said Pastor Valerie Carroll, who has worked with Urojas for the last year.
Urojas moved into the building in 2015, turning it into a shelter for women and children. Code Enforcement and Stockton Fire found the building’s fire alarm system to be non-operational. To add to that, city records show previous violations for broken heaters, broken windows and malfunctioning carbon monoxide detectors, dating back to August.
But Pastor Carroll said the building was plagued with issues well before Urojas started renting.
“Don’t just give us a building, say it’s ‘as-is’ and you know there’s all kinds of problems with it,” Carroll said.
Carroll has lived in the building for the last year and worked closely with Urojas Founder Jasper Lowery. But she believes it’s building’s owner, Navin Patel, who should take responsibility for the upkeep not Lowery.
“He doesn’t even own this building, he rents it, but he’s spending his money to beautify someone else’s building to get it up and running for code enforcement,” Carroll said.
Records show 198 calls from the building to Stockton Police Department in the last two years. Lisa Lopez lives in the building and while things aren’t perfect, she still remains grateful.
“They took me out of a situation and saved my life pretty much,” Lopez said.
Stockton Fire has now ordered a 24-hour fire watch on the building until the alarm system is up and running. But even after seeing those terrifying flames in Oakland, the people who live here told CBS13 they don’t believe it’ll happen to them.
“Things happen,” Lopez said. “There was a problem with the fire alarm and they’re trying to fix it.”
Pastor Carroll said Urojas is getting the fire alarms fixed on Monday. But with little income and a desperate need for donations, she wants the owner to step in. We reached out to the owner of the building but we have not heard back yet.