April 13, 2016

Blighted Housing: A look inside eight migrant farmworker ‘camps’

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A bedroom for migrant farmworkers at the Nightingale facility in Rantoul, Ill., on July 29, 2014.

Photo by Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

A bedroom for migrant farmworkers at the Nightingale facility in Rantoul, Ill., on July 29, 2014.

Click to explore: Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting migrant farmworker housing database

Below are noteworthy problems inspectors observed at eight migrant farmworker camps.

Click on the name of the camp to read the original inspection report.


Nightingale Camp | Illinois

Address: 100 Nightingale, Rantoul

Year(s): 2014, 2013, 2011

Nightingale Camp is the largest migrant farmworker camp in Illinois, certified to house 450 residents.

In a June 2014 inspection, state officials noted that one fire extinguisher was blown, rooms needed painting, ceiling tiles were missing, bed covers needed to be provided and the telephone line did not work.

The three-story former hospital building was cited for nine violations that year.

In a follow-up inspection one month later, inspectors noted that the telephone line still did not work, fire extinguishers had not yet been replaced and plumbing problems remained.

In 2011, the camp did not supply residents with adequate lighting and plumbing.

In 2013, smoke detectors were inoperable and cooking equipment was found in sleeping rooms.

The owner of the property, listed as Unique Storage, could not be reached for comment despite repeated calls.


Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. | Illinois

Address: 1507 E. Washington, Urbana

Year: 2012

During a June 2012 initial inspection, state officials noted “too many beds” in the bedrooms, a lack of hot water handles in some showers and too few fire extinguishers.

Inspectors also noted that one of the apartments needed its living room window repaired and smoke detectors needed to be installed.

One of the units was also missing a stove.

The site was certified to house up to 120 residents. Inspectors cited it for 10 issues.

It was part of an apartment building complex cited five years earlier by city inspectors for multiple violations including disconnected fire alarms, broken windows and electrical problems, according to a 2007 news article.

In 2011, city officials and police held a community meeting to address a rash of crime at the site that appeared to have targeted the migrant workers living there, according to news reports.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International had registered the site as migrant housing with the state as far back as 2007, records show.

The company has not registered any sites for migrant housing for 2016.


Seaquist Orchards | Wisconsin

Address: 4449 County Road E., Egg Harbor

Year: 2014

During a July initial inspection, Wisconsin officials noted that the camp had a total of 52 violations, including 10 “serious” violations and 26 “moderate” violations.

Minor violations were related to general cleaning. For example, inspectors stated that the camp operators should mop the kitchen floor and clean the kitchen ventilator. Mattresses in bedrooms required new waterproof covers.

A bulk of the serious violations related to fire-safety. Some doors did not have self-closing attachments, an omission that could allow fires to spread through the interior of a structure more easily. Inspectors found at least four instances were fire alarms were broken.

“Have an electrician check wires below the mobile house,” an inspector wrote.

Additionally, sufficient first-aid kits were not provided.

Jim Seaquist, owner of Seaquist Orchards, said the violations were noted as part of a pre-inspection before workers moved into the camp.

“We house anywhere from 10 to 40 migrant workers from Texas each year, depending upon crop situations, and we’ve had a lot of these same people for probably going on 20 or 30 years, really,” he said. “It’s been a really good relationship for us, and I think for them or they wouldn’t continue to come back.”


Lakeside 275 | Wisconsin

Address: 705 Main Street, Belgium

Year: 2013

During a May inspection, Wisconsin officials found 30 violations at a Lakeside Foods camp. Four violations were “serious.” The vast majority were “moderate.”

“We strive to provide housing that meets all the legal requirements, but more importantly that provides housing that meets the needs of our people, that they find satisfying,” said Tom Riley, vice president of human resources for Lakeside Foods. “That’s the intent.”

Floors in some of the housing units sustained water damage the previous year and needed to be replaced, the inspector noted. Window screens were torn and also needed to be replaced. The basement, where the laundry room was located, was humid and smelled of mold.

“Remove obstructions from fire exit,” an inspector wrote.


Triple S Three Seasons | Indiana

Address: 5474 N., 25 E., Sharpsville

Year: 2014

Indiana inspectors found 12 violations during a July inspection.

One violation read: “The urinal on the left (men’s central restroom) was leaking wastewater from the drain trap, creating an unsanitary condition with wastewater running across the floor.”

A second read: “The 3rd toilet from the left in the women’s restroom was spraying water extensively from the supply line, creating a wet, unsanitary condition.”

Another read: “A tire off the rim, several pots, and a bucket of stagnant water which can all provide breeding sites for mosquitoes were located near unit 20 (now inhabited).”

According to inspection records, the camp housed a maximum of 40 workers.

The listed operator from Triple S Three Seasons camp did not respond to requests for comment.


Plank Camp No 1 | Indiana

Address: 1107 E. CR 900 S., Galveston

Year: 2013

Indiana inspectors found nine violations during an August inspection of the small migrant camp, which can hold a maximum of 10 occupants, according to records. Most violations were for general uncleanliness.

One violation noted that there were roaches in the bathrooms.

“Generally, maintenance has to do with fixing screen doors, water leaks,” camp operator Stephen Plank said. “It’s really no different from maintaining things in your own home.”

Additionally, the inspector observed “an excess of cats,” detailed as 15 cats and kittens. Various health hazards are associated with feral cats, including a parasite that can cause brain infections and affect the fetus of pregnant women.


H & H Farms Camp 1 | Indiana

Address: 3535 N. 800 E., Lafayette

Year: 2013

Indiana inspectors found six violations during a March inspection.

One violation cited a gas odor in the kitchen.

Another stated: “Beds used for double occupancy were provided in single sex accommodations.”

Additional violations were for inoperable smoke detectors, discharged fire extinguishers, missing light bulbs and a broken sink.

Records show the camp’s maximum occupancy was 14 workers at the time.

The listed operator for the H & H Camp declined to comment on migrant housing conditions.


Miller Camp | Indiana

Address: 8115 E. 1150 S., Galveston

Year: 2013

Indiana inspectors noted six total violations at the camp during a May inspection. Records show the camp was authorized to hold a maximum of 20 occupants.

One violation was for wastewater backing up onto the floor in the laundry room, and another was for a restroom window without a screen. The doors of the restroom did not fit tightly in their frames. Inspectors also noted that a mobile home was not secured to prevent unauthorized entry.

Inspectors also wrote: “Containers that create breeding grounds for mosquitoes were observed at the frost free hydrant area (water trough), restroom (garbage container), south of the vacant mobile home (tires), laundry (barrel-buckets), and 2 (garbage container).”

The listed operator did not respond to requests for comment.


B & J Onion and Melon LLC  | Texas

Address: 906 U.S. Highway 83, San Ygnacio

Year: 2012

According to inspection records, this Texas migrant camp open from April to June was approved to hold a total capacity of 120 workers. A February inspection resulted in zero noted violations, but included one added comment.

The Texas inspector noted that the facility is surrounded by a 6-foot high fence with an access controlled gate that is closed at 7 p.m. each night.

B & J Onion and Melon LLC was unable to be reached for comment.


Hidalgo Co. Housing Authority Memorial Apartments | Texas

Address: 501 E. Jamsine, McAllen

Year: 2010

During the time of a February inspection, records show 404 “migrant people” were living on site.

The camp’s laundry room only had six washers and dryers each. Lack of sufficient laundry facilities can lead to health hazards if laborers work with pesticides or animals and cannot promptly wash their clothes, according to advocates.

The Hidalgo County Housing Authority was unable to be reached for comment.


See related: “Blighted Housing: Inspections fail to stem poor conditions for migrant farmworkers”


See related: “Blighted Housing: Visa program requires housing inspections for non-U.S. farmworkers”


See related: “Blighted Housing: Much of Missouri migrant farmworker housing left out of inspection program”


See related: “A conversation with Monsanto on migrant farmworker housing”