'This home is really all I got': Booneville condemns house that man lives in

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record

Jim Phillips has lived in his Booneville home since 2000. The house belonged to his mother and stepfather and had been in the family for generations. 

But a couple of months ago, Booneville city officials decided to condemn his house. 

“I have nowhere else to go," Phillips said. 

Phillips, 45, is disabled and lives on a fixed income. He does not have the money to hire a lawyer and fight the city on its decision. 

Before the city's move to condemn the house, Phillips received four citations all mandating that he clean up his yard. 

Since then, Phillips said he has worked to make sure his yard stays clean. 

“I don’t know what else I can do. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep everything clean," Phillips said. 

Phillips said city officials told him his house was a "danger to the community."

Jim Phillips said he does not understand why Booneville officials condemned his home.

Irene Murrell, who lives down the street from Phillips, does not understand why the city is condemning his home. She said that Phillips is a nice guy who does not bother anyone. 

“I just don’t think that it’s right,” Murrell said about the city condemning Phillips' home. 

She also noted that Phillips has worked hard to clean up his yard and the exterior of his home. Murrell said that the house is "70% better" than when she first moved in down the street. 

Phillips said he has been told that he could be thrown in jail if he does not move out of the house by his July 8 court date. But Phillips has no plans to leave his home. 

“They’re going to have to drag my dead carcass out is the way I look at it," Phillips said. 

Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins said the city decided to condemn the house because it has dirt floors, is unsanitary and has a poor appearance. 

“It’s just not the environment somebody should have to live in," Wilkins said. 

The city has condemned six or eight buildings so far this year. Typically, the city condemns about 10 buildings a year. 

Wilkins estimated that about 25% of the time, people live in the buildings that the city condemns.

Jim Phillips, 45, has lived in his home since 2000. The home was condemned and he was ordered to leave, but volunteers recently stepped up to help out and a judge granted an additional 30 days to fix up the home.

It costs between $7,500 and $10,000 for the city to demolish a condemned building, with bids accepted from companies to do the work. Wilkins said the city is waiting until Phillips moves out of the house before demolishing it.

“I’ve been really patient with him. Eventually, we’ll get there," Wilkins said about having Phillips removed from his home. 

Wilkins said houses that are condemned drive down the property values of surrounding homes.

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Since the city has stated it is going to condemn Phillips' home, it has turned off his water. Phillips said the city refuses to turn back on the water until he gets plumbing work done.

“I’m just not going to roll over and say 'Okay you can have it. I’ll just go live in the street,'” Phillips said.

Phillips said he does not have to pay property taxes on the home because he is disabled. Because Phillips has a felony for drug paraphernalia, he does not qualify for some low-income housing. 

The city of Booneville has condemned Jim Phillips' home. But Phillips said he is not planning to go anywhere.

Heather Sanders, the executive director of the Community Rescue Mission in Fort Smith, said the nonprofit organization occasionally helps families that the Department of Human Services has mandated leave their homes because they are unsafe. 

Sanders noted that the Logan County Housing Authority has resources to help people afford rent. 

But for Phillips, his house is more than just a building. It is his home. 

“This home is really all I got," Phillips said. 

He plans to stay. 

“I’m here, and I’m going to stay here. I have every right to," Phillips said.