Military children exposed to mold, termites, and extreme heat in on-base housing

An military housing community at a California Marine base has some folks wanting to bug out- particularly after footage surfaced of mold and termite infestations.

The Camp Pendleton housing area became the stage for a horror show after military wife Tiffany Vilchek posted a video of termites crawling all over her daughter’s bedroom.

“My daughter’s room is infested with termites…” she said, “…Anything laying on the floor, they get on.”

“Housing still hasn’t done anything about it,” she added, noting that the child cannot sleep in the bedroom.

Ultimately, Vilchek would post several days later, saying they would be moving out- at their own expense.

“We are moving and I am going to go forward with other actions as well as this is coming out of our pocket,” she said, noting that the new housing will do preventative pest control before the family moves in.

The majority of housing is handled by the privately owned Lincoln Military Housing, which has seen scandals in military communities on both the East and West coasts.

Camp Pendleton -where off-post military housing allowance reaches well over $2,000 for even an E-1 with dependents- is notorious for having substandard housing, be it from horrendous mold to termites and even the lack of air conditioning.  Military members who live on base surrender their military housing allowance (BAH) for housing and unfortunately have to pay some expenses out of pocket.

According to Lincoln Military Housing’s website, the company manages 6,000 homes -mostly with no air conditioning- in and around Pendleton, where “the near-perfect climate with its average daily temperatures of 70 degrees affords residents year-round outdoor recreation and adventure.”

While housing authorities claim the houses are cooled by ocean breezes, the effectiveness of the cooling breeze is largely dependent on where one’s house is located- meaning that hot temperatures, mold and other issues are a way of life for military families.

Writer and public speaker Kristine Schellhaas – the founder of and former resident at Camp Pendleton- described contradictory conditions at great length.

“The home temperatures on Camp Pendleton have been documented at being 80 degrees or warmer inside the homes from June to September,” she said. “Mothers with young children are worried about their babies and toddlers passing away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The ideal temperature to prevent SIDS is between 68-72 degrees.”

(Photo credit: Kristine Schellhaas)

Schellhaas added that the residents of on-base housing are prohibited from installing window AC units, yet some still get slammed with electric bills well over $100.  Families are stuck paying for the amount of the electric bill that exceeds the average but are dumbfounded as to how they can be so high without air conditioning.  Energy audits determined the homes were not wired to be billed independently. Many have been found to be hooked together with neighbor’s use and community utilities such as sprinklers, lights, etc.  According to Schellhaas, some families even turned all of their breakers off and found that their meters were still running.

Low-income families living off base are able to utilize 12-30% discounts from their power bills. Families with low-income living on base aren’t afforded the same opportunities. In one instance, Schellhaas found where a bill given to a military family did not match their meter reading during an energy audit. The baseline (averages of the neighborhood) suddenly shifted from the previous homes for at least four months.

(Photo credit: Kristine Schellhaas)

To make matters worse, when families who signed over their entire housing allowance can’t pay their extremely high bills they are threatened with eviction -mainly a scare tactic to squeeze money from them.

(Photo credit: Kristine Schellhaas)

“Families are avoiding sleeping upstairs altogether,” she said. “Some are sleeping on blow up mattresses downstairs to try and keep cooler.”

(Screenshot from Facebook)

In 2016, over $350,000 in damages was awarded to a Marine family by a judge when it was discovered that a Lincoln Military Housing property was unbearably moldy. Other facilities -such as Pendleton- struggle with mold as well.

Mold found in military housing at Camp Pendleton. (Photo credit: Stephanie Huggins)

For Marines and their families at Camp Pendleton military housing, the only thing worse than illness-inducing mold and sweltering heat is the negligence of the Corps’ housing authority to take care of them.

“It’s disturbing,” Schellhaas said. “It’s disturbing that our military families are having to live in conditions like this.”

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