Slum house with sewage problem being rented to family tracks back to KC church

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You don’t even have to walk inside the house on Wabash near 41st street in Kansas City to know there are serious problems.

You can smell them from the front yard.

“Sewage is coming up from the basement,” said Rhonda Burns who lives there with her husband and three grandchildren.

Burns points out a large hole in the ceiling of the dining room that she worries about every time it rains.

“There is water that actually comes through there,” Burns said.  “You could stand there and take a shower.”

Who would rent someone a house this bad? A church, that’s who. Eternal Life Church in Kansas City.

Eternal Life Church also rented a house on 56th Street, near Swope Parkway that was featured on Fox 4 News a few months back after the renter demanded his deposit back.

The renter was understandably upset after he saw (and filmed) the church’s bishop Tony Caldwell illegally turning on the water from the curb.

Caldwell told Fox 4 that he was turning off the water.

Equally troubling is that a court order last February barred Bishop Caldwell from buying or renting properties. Caldwell was also ordered to repay people he’d defrauded by selling them uninhabitable homes.

Caldwell has told Fox 4 that he is out of the rental business and is now just the maintenance person for the properties.

But Burns said Caldwell’s name was on their original lease. Burns no longer has a copy of that lease. Her new lease has the name the church and the church’s secretary L. Williams.

We tried to talk to both Caldwell and Williams. Caldwell never called us back, but Williams texted us saying Caldwell was no longer involved with the rental properties and had retired from the church.

"Why do you keep asking about the Bishop?" she wrote. “He has nothing to do with that property. That man is retired."

Ericka Brown said she is Caldwell’s estranged wife and doesn’t believe anything he says.

“Do you know how many times that man has said he’s retired?” Brown asked. “He’s said he’s retired at least twice since I’ve known him.”

Brown said she doesn’t believe anything he says and worries that he’s continuing to take advantage of desperate families such as the Burns by renting them uninhabitable homes.

Rhonda Burns is so concerned about the condition of her home that she worries she’ll lose custody of her grandchildren if she stays there. But she can’t afford to move.

While Fox 4 Problem Solvers was covering this story, the city evicted the Burns family and boarded up the house because of the open sewage in the basement.

The Burns have requested at least part of their $1,000 deposit back from Eternal Life Church so that they can find a new and safe place to live.

Problem Solvers was able to help the family find temporary housing at Restart. Next month they hope to move to an apartment, but need beds for their three grandchildren and other furniture.

If you can help, please contact Fox 4 Problem Solvers.