People Found Living in Donna Flea Market Evicted
DONNA – Several families have until the end of the month to pack up their belongings and leave a Donna flea market.
Donna police and city officials found out people were living in makeshift apartments at the Fiesta Flea Market two weeks ago.
Resident Christina Alvarez has called the place home for the past three years. She said storage sheds were turned into homes that lack air conditioning and running water.
Alvarez said she can’t afford to pay for a regular apartment.
“Sometimes we don’t have work and we don’t have enough for the rent, it’s expensive. That’s the reason we came over here,” she said.
Alvarez’s kitchen area is in another garage adjacent to her bedroom. She said she pays a total of $220 for both rooms.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS also spoke to the property owner, Jeremy Riley.
“There are probably about 20 units rented that people live in. I don’t know how many per unit,” he said.
Riley said he recently inherited the property.
“My father-in-law passed away in December and he was allowing people that needed a place to live to live in the storage units that were designed for flea market use for people to store their gear. So on Sunday, they can open their doors and sell their merchandise,” he said.
Donna interim manager Ernesto Silva said he approached Riley after receiving a complaint.
“Well, originally we received a complaint for someone that had been out in that area and said they had seen a gentlemen, they believed, to have been a registered sex offender,” he said. “And so the police department went out to investigate and they found the gentleman was actually living in the makeshift conditions.”
Silva said flea markets are regularly inspected. However, he said the Donna flea market wasn’t a cause for concern at the time of its last inspection.
“There was no requirement to go out and do an inspection. Nobody was opening up a new business. But what they did was they constructed these makeshift apartments over the weekend and so you can’t really tell,” he said.
Silva said the flea market is in a commercial zone and all apartments must meet city code.
The flea market manager said they plan to renovate the market after people abandon the premises. He said the business owners who are in compliance will be able to stay.
Another flea market located in Donna was also inspected after Silva learned of these makeshift conditions.