AUGUSTA — The three families displaced Tuesday when their apartment building was abruptly declared unfit for living have found new lodgings with help from the city and others.

Heather Bennett has two teenage children and “I just went into panic mode and did the mom thing,” when she and tenants of two other apartments at 11 State St. were told they could go in to get their belongs but had to find another place to live after the city code enforcement officer deemed the building unfit for occupancy Tuesday.

Bennett, 37, started searching for a new home while her teens were at school, finding one Wednesday on Washington Street that was more expensive than the $650 a month she was paying on State Street, but renovated, safer and quieter.

“The other building shook all the time,” she said. “I thought a tall building was safe.”

However, the rent is $75 a month higher, and she needed money for a security deposit.

She sought help from the general assistance program at Augusta City Center, and was told by Raenae Moore, a caseworker/technician in the Health and Welfare Department, “We’ll get you into that apartment.”

City Manager William Bridgeo said, “From the moment we became aware of the circumstances yesterday Raenae has been working diligently with the displaced tenants, and my understanding (Wednesday) morning is that all those in need of housing have been helped at least temporarily and in a couple of circumstances, it looks like they have permanent housing.”

Bennett and her children moved to Augusta, where she grew up, from Tennessee two and a half months ago, settling into the three-bedroom, second floor State Street apartment.

Tuesday morning, Overton declared three of the four apartments unfit for occupancy because of the conditions of the porches, which are used to enter the apartments.

In order to regain an occupancy permit for the apartments in the commercial building, owner Kenneth Ouellette has to file engineering drawings of how the porches will be repaired and then those repairs will have to be inspected, Overton said.

Ouellette did not return phone calls left at his home Tuesday and Wednesday.

Bennett got the keys to her new apartment Wednesday and was making plans to get help moving the family’s belongings.

She and her son Joe, 12, and daughter Tasha, 15, were happy with their new home, and seemed more excited than worried about the move.

Bennett said much of her time involves taking care of family since her teens have special needs. “I’m thankful their father pays very good child support so I can be afforded the luxury of staying home with them,” she said.

The Bennetts spent Tuesday and Wednesday night with friends.

Andrea Jellison and her husband and 6-year-old son, who lived on the top floor at 11 State St., stayed Tuesday and Wednesday nights at a hotel in Augusta. She said building owner Ouellette, of Monmouth, paid for the room.Jellison said her family was hoping the city would assist them with getting a storage unit and a trailer to move their items since they were offered room in a relative’s home in Winthrop. They were referred to the United Way of Kennebec Valley.

The third affected tenant, Kenneth R. Norton and his 17-year-old son, spent two nights at Norton’s mother’s home in Chelsea.

He said city workers said they were going to get him subsidized housing as soon as possible. He receives disability.

Norton’s family lived in the State Street apartment for seven years. Norton said he was told Oullette had to return the $900 security deposit he had provided to the previous owner, as well as the current month’s $650 rent.

“I’ve been struggling to make ends meet,” he said Wednesday when he returned to his apartment to pick up some items. He said he’s been sober for seven years with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Norton said he was grateful that things appeared to be working out for his family. His son’s last day of school was Thursday, so he could help with the move.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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