Mike O'Rourke - Mike
Richard Merlino - Rich
Mike: Good evening. I took over the Albion. Commonwealth Bank asked me one day would I help out the owner, and a lot of you know who the owner is. I’m not going to mention his name, so I went with the owner. He had owned it for maybe 6 to 8 months, never saw the building he bought. [background conversation 0:00:34] He never knew the building, so he called me. He said, “Would you come out and look at the building?”
He walked me, all the city people outside the door, wanting to go and see the building. I know the bank wanted me to take it over no matter what. It was going very close to receivership. So I went up to the people, I said, “If I take it over, will you guys back off?” They said, “We will still have to go to the judge, but we won’t push it.” But one of the people said to me, “You know, if you take this and you do good, you’re going to be a hero, but if you don’t go good, you’re going to go down to the bottom of the barrel.”
I thought I could do it and I took my chances. So I took it over. The judge said to the owner, “You got to pay him. There’s no receivership, but if you don’t pay him, we’re taking the property.”
I started off. First thing I did is got two policemen every night from sometimes 7:00 to 2:00 in the morning. I lived there for a while in my car in front, and we just walked in front of the building to stop everybody. Even people going in, we searched. We had a lot of prostitution. Everybody was stopping in that corner and even the people driving by would stop at the corner. Anyway, we arrested a lot of people. We cleaned it up.
I hired a cleaning company, Enterprise, and I told them we needed four people, and I said, :”Bring plenty of bleach.” I said, “All I wanted you to do is start at the top and work all the way down, and when you’re all done, go back up again and start and do that all week.” They did and everything went well. We straightened it out; the city was happy. [background conversation 0:02:28]
Anyway, everybody was happy, so the owner got the property back. Then, the bank wanted to get rid of it and they didn’t want it. It was going to go up for auction. It did, and this lawyer bought it. I was away in Ireland when it was going to be auctioned. If I was here, I would have probably bought it, but I said I’ll back away. Anyway, I was in Ireland.
When I came back, the lawyer called me. He said, “Would you manage it for me?” I said sure. The next day, the manager called me back and said, “Will you buy it from me?” He says, “I don’t even own it and I’m getting a million phone calls. I need this done. I need this done.” So I said, “Sure, but I’m not paying you more than what you paid.” He said, “If you pay the price I paid plus the taxes and the water and sewerage, I’ll sell it to you.” So he did and I bought it. The day I bought it, within that first month, 25 people moved out without me even telling them to move out. They just left, so that was good.
Male Audience 1: A lot of [unintelligible 0:03:45].
Rich: Yes, let’s not spend time on that.
Mike: I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I just started going around and I started the cleaning and making people toe the mark and they just didn’t like it. Twenty-five people left right off the bat and I didn’t stop anybody from leaving, and I still tell you today if you want to go, there’s the door. But in a sense, if you’re living at the Albion and I put you out or you go, there’s no other place to go.
You’re going to go down under the bridge on Main Street or up in Castle Park. Nobody wants you. If you go up to Oread Street and say, “I rent from Michael O’Rourke at the Albion.” You don’t need that, you’re getting nothing. “I live at the Albion.” You’re getting nothing. Don’t mention my name if you want to rent specially around there.
Anyway, I fixed it up. I started painting rooms and turned it up and renting it and [unintelligible 0:04:51] came in and rented some spaces. One thing I got to say about the people, they might be fighting between each other, but if there’s a problem, they pull together, whether someone is overdosing and they’re fighting, they’re fighting over drugs, if they overdose, they got their own Narcan. They give it to people, so they are protecting themselves.
Since I owned it, we saved 11 lives with the Narcan. All my people are trained. So AIDS Worcester came out and trained everybody, so we saved 11 people. One girl, the husband tried to save her, she went to New Mass. She was in a coma in ICU, and then she passed away. But then the husband put a needle in his neck and he died overnight and nobody knew it, but he wasn’t happy there.
We kind of a posse. If I don’t see you around, I want my people going into your room. We have a master key for everything and we go into the rooms, just check you, where you’ll be in because sometimes there’s AIDS and people coming around, but they don’t come every day. When they say they’re coming five days a week or six, some days they don’t show up, so we do check on the people quite a bit. But they do protect each other and they do help each other. Even when they’re broke, they might ask their next door that’s probably broke, too, but they’ll put a few bucks together for them.
That’s basically how I got the Albion and I’ve had it for about three years. I started off with 68 rooms. We had four rooms closed down, so I opened those up and I went and got a permit. I went to the licensing board and they granted me 72 rooms, so I ended up getting four more rooms out of it.
I have 72 rooms there, and I’m not saying everything is quiet every night, but it’s a lot better. I do call in the vice squad once in a while to walk the floors. Sometimes in the beginning of the month or something, they come in, they walk the floors. If they spot them, 5-0s in the building and that goes through like them, goes through the building. Everyone is telling everybody, so nobody comes out of their room.
We got cameras in the building. We also got it wired in the police department. Sometimes like some stuff happen on Main Street or whatever, they come see our cameras to see if we picked anything up. One of the things is if something happens in front of the [unintelligible 0:07:38], the last July 1st I was there, July 4th I was there, and I was there with a policeman. There was a problem and it happened in front of the Y. I just got to tell to the policeman.
Everything something happens in this neighborhood, they put down 765 Main Street, so it makes it look like it’s my building. He was over there with the policeman helping him arrest somebody and they said arrest in front of 765 Main Street. He told the cop, the detective. He said, “Change the address to the Y. He says, “Everyone is blaming that building over there and he’s getting blamed for it, but they’re arresting them in other places.” That was one of the biggest issues.
I go to Neighborhood Watch up there, the Y, because before I went, they were badmouthing the Albion, and if I wasn’t there or something, they were badmouthing. So I started showing up, and I stopped the badmouthing. But I noticed everyone got a piece of white paper in front of them, but I don’t. I waited. I got a glance on one. It was the police stats from the city, and everyone got a paper but me. Before I took over, they had requested it from the police department, so I talked to the police officer, and I said, “Can I get one?” He said, “Sure! You take mine.”
They were talking at the meeting that, “Oh, you guys still have a lot of police calls over there, and you got to stop them.” I said, “Unless I’m reading this paper wrong, I got two police calls for the whole month when I used to have 75.” They said, “Well, you got the ambulances and fire trucks.” I said, “I can’t do nothing about that. Everyone got a phone.” They kept tapping on me. I said, “Hey, listen, I’ll solve the ambulance problem. When this meeting is over, look at the front glass of the building. I’m going to put on it, ‘If you call an ambulance, you’re going to be evicted.”
Mike: So, all of a sudden, everybody goes against me. The board says you can’t do that.” I said, “You just told me to do it. You said I got too many ambulance calls. I’m not calling the ambulance. The people are calling if they’re sick.” They said, “Please don’t do that.” After that, they don't know what I’m going to do next.
Mike: I go to the meeting. I still go the meetings because if I’m not there, they’re probably putting a knife in my back, and I don’t go, I send somebody and we’ve been having a good report since. It runs well. I wish I was at the auction, I bought it at the auction, but I lived in Ireland. I didn’t do bad on the price. I got people who were calling me after I bought, wanted to buy it at the same price I paid for it. I said, “No, we’re not in that business.” I said, “You know, I’m really not interested in selling it, and I didn’t.” I mean I’ve had people now come in see it and wanted to talk to me and want to buy it. I’m still holding out. I like it. I could really get rid of all of my other property and I could live off the Albion right now and make a good living.
The Albion runs, it’s 24 hours a day. I have somebody on the front door. None of my tenants have a key to get into the building. They have to all be buzzed in, so I have somebody on the door. The only time he’s not at the door, if he went to the bathroom or if there was a problem in the fifth floor.
Now, we don't have an elevator, so let me tell you, there’s a lot of stairs. The elevator can’t be handicapped accessible, so they don’t let me do it. I may go this year to Boston and try to get a variance, but it’s like the old elevators that used to be down top with the man that used to drive them and have the little shaft. That’s the kind of elevator we got. We got the shaft and everything, but the door only opens about that wide. For use it for the ambulances, it isn’t going to help them. Mostly, the people that are the biggest drunks, they go to the fifth floor, the big guys like me go to the fifth floor and they’re the heaviest people to carry down, so we’re trying to level our load and keep them closer to the bottom.
Mike: They do get together and they might have a room and they get beer and they all go into that room and sit down and drink their beers and they go stagger back. I had a man there living that he liked to see the firetrucks and the ambulances, and the police car. He liked to see the vehicles. He liked their badges, and we used to call him the fireman. Anyway, he really was a pain.
One day, he took a refrigerator. He just threw it over the back porch. I said, “If there’s anybody down there, they’d be dead.” I evicted him and I did get him out. The hour before the sheriff was coming, he called an ambulance to go to the hospital. He thought he could won me over, so he could stay. I said, “No, you’re gone no matter what.” So he stayed at the hospital for a while. Now he’s up in Queens Street, but he came by the other day and pulled some of the plants out of the ground.
I mean I got to watch for him. He threatened me, but I’m aware of him, and there’s a lot of my people aware of him, but we go around. We have a cleaning person in there, daily. We got 22 bathrooms, 22-1/2 bathrooms. We only had 20, but again, they were closed down, just like the four rooms were closed down. I just opened them back up, cleaned them, and got them working. We can’t build anymore bathrooms because we got to be handicapped accessible, so we can’t add on anymore bathrooms. We can’t add anymore rooms, so 74 is the most they have, and they’re doing good.
This year, beginning of the year, every February, we get an inspection from the fire department, code department, and also the building department. Before when they used to do it, back before I took it over, the old owners, it used to take about eight hours to go through the whole building. The guys had to run downstairs to get the key, run to find the guy to get a key. I have a master right on me, my people have a master. We are opening doors and there are people closing their doors. All we had to do is check them and see the room is existing and the fire alarms were working, and we went through the whole place.
Last year, we did it in about two hours. This year, we did it in an hour and a quarter. We just blew right through it. They sent two firemen. They checked the sprinkler system, and they got through the place. They’re amazed because we have the master. I changed everything to one master key, so we can go into anybody’s apartment. I know people say, “You really can’t walk into a guy’s apartment or lady’s apartment,” but I don’t see you around, I got to go in and check.
I’ve been exterminating. When I first took it over, it cost me $17,000 to exterminate the building for mice, bedbugs, and roaches. Now it costs me $1,400 and we do it once a month. If I get a room that says he has bedbugs or whatever, I call the exterminating company. They do come over, free of charge and they check it. If there is, they’ll treat it right away. But some people, to say it, they think they have to go and check it and they don’t. Those are really the only things.
Some of the things you’ll see in the slides, this is one of the rooms. This room is in the newspaper there at my last article. That’s a small room we have. We have all-metal beds. There is no wooden frames left in our rooms. I got all-metal beds. I bought them. Now I’m making the metal beds because they’re stronger and they’re better for someone like me. If I was sleeping in it, they will be bending the metal beds that we were buying, so I got them all made.
Doug: Can you go back into the building?
Rich: You got into the bed-manufacturing business?
Mike: Just my own [laughter]. Just my own. I’m just building our own beds. They’re the same size. I raised them up 5 inches and that’s it. One of the first things I did is I put the flag up. I fought with the city for two years. We got the two trees in front of the building, but they finally gave them to me.
That little green thing, we have pots under it. We put our Christmas trees on it in the Christmas time. That’s our master key box. It’s in the security room. We have a master key so far. If security people have to go upstairs or anything, they can just open that up and take the master key and go open your apartment. That’s our security cameras.
Rich: How many cameras are there approximately?
Mike: Forty something, altogether. There’s an extra one there. You must have missed.
Rich: I think Batman had 30.
Mike: Yes. There’s our fire alarm box that we can control from up there. The panel is in the cellar.
Brian: What about the licenses on the wall?
Mike: One license says that I have 72 units.
Brian: The driver’s licenses?
Mike: Those are people we don’t allow in. You have to have—
Rich: Can you repeat the question for everybody in the room, please? Yes, Brian asks why are there pictures of driver’s licenses on the walls?
Mike: You have to have a picture ID before you come into the Albion. You can’t come visit unless you have a picture ID, and I don’t care if you come 10 times over the course of a day. No picture ID, you don’t come in. I closed down all the visitor’s at 5:30; no visitors allowed in the building after 5:30. When I used to leave it until 8:00 o'clock, they were chasing it around to 10:00 or 11:00; 5:00 o'clock or 5:30, everybody has got to be out. If you mess with us, you’re not coming back. Your picture makes the wall. Those are the kind of the bad people that we’ve had and we try to keep them out.
These are small rooms that we are painting. Some of them, the people put up curtains or they buy them and have our people put up the curtains. Some of our bureaus that we go out and we buy or pick up in places that are getting rid of them.
Rich: Mike, do you supply all the furniture?
Mike: All the furniture. These are our kitchens. We got five new kitchens we did over this year before the inspections and we have electric stoves that we put in all the kitchens. What I did with the electric stoves, I put a one-day timer, 24-hour day timer and the stove goes off at 9 o'clock at night. Nobody can use the stove after 9:00. They all get drunk and they’re burning their hair or burning their food, so no stove after 9:00, and that’s in the whole building. It’s not that they can go behind the stove and touch something. I got them locked in closets. Operation of stoves is over at 9:00.
Rich: By a show of hands, who has your stoves shut off at 9 o'clock?
Rich: Right? This is mind-blowing. This is—
Mike: When I have people going out and they’ve been drinking, then they go and they light the cigarette off the stove, and then their hair is singed. Some of them don’t even know they’re singeing their hair.
Rich: Did you say that the stove is electric?
Mike: It does work.
Rich: Yes. Just trying to follow along here.
Mike: That is our panel. That is our switch to our stove, so our panel to control the timer. That timer is set for every stove.
Brian: Drunk daylight-saving stove now?
Mike: Yes. I guess it’s 6:00 to 9:00 and that’s it. Our laundry room. They had no laundry room when I first took it over. Nobody did laundry. Now, we have two and two. I am probably going to upgrade this to commercial washers and dryers and also I’m looking into buying a bedbug washing machine that you can put your clothes in and it will heat your clothes right up and kill anything in them, and then you put them in the dryer.
It’s something that I think will be good to us because a lot of people when they have them, they don’t clean their clothes, so as much as I spray, they’re not going away, and they carry them into each room wherever they go visiting. If we throw out any furniture that belongs to them a couch or anything, we cut it up before we throw it away just so that nobody else brings it in to their apartment.
Brian: For the bedbug washing machine, how much do you run on? [unintelligible 0:21:30] use it?
Mike: Yes. They’re going to pay to use it.
Rich: Yes. I’m going to go around and take questions. I’m sure that there are a lot.
Mike: Yes. There is a small bathroom.
Rich: So you’re not going to custom-build the bedbug washing machine like you go with the beds right?
Mike: No, no.
Rich: You’re just going to buy it.
Mike: We got 20, one of those and it has a shower and there’s a sink in there, too. That’s a just regular room. They do have their own refrigerators. We don’t supply any refrigerators.
Audience: [unintelligible 0:22:03]
Female Audience 1: [unintelligible 0:22:04]
Rich: Yes, so we’re going to go around for questions.
Mike: We got rid of all of our dumpsters because that was another nightmare, and what we do is pick up the rubbish daily with my own truck. We have a trailer we pull along, and it picks up the rubbish around my apartments. We also pick up the rubbish daily and sometimes twice a day, seven days a week. We pick up the rubbish and take it out of there.
Rich: Wow! Where do we even start? Okay, Sandy has a question. Christina has a question. I’m coming. I’m coming. Hold on. You said you want to go first.
Carmine: Yes. Hi, Mike. Are the washers and dryers, are they coin operated?
Carmine: Suggestion: change them to cards. I’ve had washers and dryers broken into with crowbars and you lose all the money and with the type of people living there…
Mike: Well, they haven’t don’t anything yet. There’s camera on it.
Mike: Yes, but I am going to go to tokens.
Rich: Tokens like you used to run the ski ball machines where you get the tickets at the end and get the gummy worms?
Christina: I’m sure you already know this, but you’re an amazing guy.
Christina: I mean you’ve done an amazing job. It’s crazy. Crazy.
Christina: My question was when you first took over and you had the police there every night, did you have to pay like for details?
Christina: You did?
Mike: Yes. Fifty dollars an hour, but I wasn’t paying, so that’s why I brought two policemen and four cleaning companies. The owner of the building was paying because the bank wanted me to straighten it out. If I didn’t straighten it out, the bank was only getting the heat from the city. The bank did tell me if he doesn’t pay you, I’ll pay you. I was part of the bank. That’s where my loans were with Commonwealth Bank, so the president asked me to do him a favor, so I did it.
Male Audience 2: [crosstalk 0:24:01] before receivership?
Mike: I’m a receiver.
Male Audience 2: You are the receiver.
Mike: I’m a receiver, but I knew the people from the city, so I went and talked to them and one of them said, “If you do it, you do good, you’re great. But if you do bad, you’re going to go to the bottom of the list.” We did good and everybody was happy. There was no one fighting me or anything, and even like the people, I mean the court, you’re going to with the city or something, if you need help, I can go talk to the lawyer for you. I mean I do a lot of receiverships, so I can help you out to see. As long as you do what they want you to do, you’re not going to be going to court or getting fined. They’ll give you a little bit of time, but if you blow them off, you’re getting no more time.
Sandra: Mike, can you please describe what these bedbug machines are? We’re sitting here at this table and no one has heard of this. Is it a special machine and who sells it?
Mike: Yes. Well, the laundry companies do sell them, and you can buy them from Craigslist, too. In fact, I just bought a building and a guy got a bedbug machine and he wanted to sell it to me. It’s a steamer, so you put it in your room and plug it in, and it steams the room and brings the room up to 140 degrees. Then it’s supposed to kill everything.
I went to Steam [unintelligible 0:23:34], I went to Steam [unintelligible 0:25:35] and the best way I’ve done right now, I’ve got [unintelligible 0:25:40] Smith. It cost me some money at the beginning, like I said $17,000. Now it costs me $1,400 a month, but we go into every room. If you’re not home, we’re going in. If you’re home, you have to leave while we’re there.
It’s almost the size of this podium right here, and you just open it, put the stuff in, and it steams the clothes and then it washes them. What it does, it just kills all the bedbugs. Now, does it kill them? I know CHL up in Queens Street. They have them, and they do some of their own people up there and sometimes they do to people. Before they bring them to me, they do their clothes.
We don’t accept any [unintelligible 0:26:25] people or CHL people at 5 o'clock on a Friday afternoon because whether they have housing or not, they’re not coming here because I don't have time. At 5 o'clock, I don’t want to be hanging around, checking in people. they have to come during the day so we can check them in.
Rich: All right.
Male Audience 3: Mike, how do you handle the heating and air-conditioning, is it all by floor, by room or?
Mike: Yes. It’s called no air conditioning.
Male Audience 3: No air conditioning. I can see that there’s none in the windows.
Mike: Well, they do have them in the windows but I stopped them now from bringing them in. They got to come in a box because they will pick them up on the street and then they bring them in, they got roaches or whatever in them. I kind of stopped them from bringing anything in. I don’t even want them bringing their own beds. I have my beds. I have my plastic mattresses like the hospital beds, and if there is a little rip, we duct tape it, and we wrap all our beds in a zipper bed cover that keeps the bedbugs from penetrating the bed.
Also, we go little disk that covers. It’s like an ashtray. It’s probably 6 inches in diameter with a little hole in the middle. We put them under the legs of the beds. Any bedbugs on the ground, they go into this cover. They’re good for a year, so if we find bedbugs in it, we can take it over, we can rinse it out in the sink and put it back and it’s fine. That’s one of our ways of going. If you say you got bedbugs, we check to see if you got the things under your legs or your bed.
The bedbugs don’t really stick to the metal frames, but if they can get up to the frames, they do, but some of them have had that go into the furniture and get into the carpet. Basically when everyone leaves, if you have carpet, the carpet goes, too. We used to try to paint it all over the floors because these were painted. We’re probably I’d say a little halfway of painting rooms in the whole building since I owned it. We do 12 to 15 at the beginning of the year, every year, or if somebody moves out, we do that room as the year goes on.
Rich: Any other questions back here before I step away? All right. Brian has one. This fellow has one.
Male Audience 4: Rich? Well, thank you. You are a hero to the city for doing what you did.
Mike: Thank you.
Male Audience 4: You obviously treat people very differently. Kind of a different angle on the stoves there. My mother had Alzheimer’s. Now my wife is getting dementia. Can you buy those stoves?
Mike: Yes, you just buy. You can buy. It’s a regular electric stove.
Male Audience 4: I’m sorry?
Mike: It’s a regular electric stove.
Male Audience 4: Do you need any special electrician or timer?
Mike: Yes. You need electrician to wire the plug for the 220. You cut the wire and you just put a timer in between it, and it’s on the wire. Then it shuts it off and turns it on.
Male Audience 4: Okay, that’s good because—
Mike: I had gas but then people would leave it and you’d be smelling gas and stuff, so I did away with the gas and went all electric.
Male Audience 4: Yes, safer for the electric.
Mike: Yes, I can’t believe. I got four cold water heaters and five stoves plus the air-conditioners and stuff. My electric bill is not over $400 a month.
Mike: So, I have a good electric bill. I have gas heat. I put it in when I first took it over with the old owner. I brought a new gas line in from the city streets and then he had a new boiler, so every year we do something to the boiler to keep it running. There is a company out there. If the boiler did go down, I could rent the boiler and it comes on a trailer and they just pipe it in from their trailer into the boiler, and it worked to heat the house. Within 12 hours, I should have a boiler up and running.
Male Audience 4: That’s incredible. Well, thank you very much.
Mike: All right.
Rich: Wow! Like one out of every five sentences is something that I have never heard before.
Mike: You have to live yet.
Brian: Here comes number 5. I got a couple of questions. How many staff do you have running the Albion?
Mike: I have five…seven.
Mike: But all my people that work on my own properties have cellphones that if we get a call, they go to the Albion, too, just like I would go if there was a problem. My biggest problem is nip bottles, and I can’t charge the 5 cents like the city wants to do. They flush them down the toilet, and every so often, I have the old house trap as a drain, so I got to dig that out and get rid of it, but if you look in the house trap once in a while, you’ll see the nip bottles on the bottom, so you got to call Roto-Rooter to push them out.
Brian: My question is, your half dozen guys whatever, we get cash that comes through our office. I don't know how they pay here, but every now and then, on any given day, three or four people might come in and my office manager, she’s just this little thing under 5-foot tall and she calls herself fun size. She’s a little thing, but recently we got her pepper spray. One of the constables, Kevin Rice, recommended because there’s cash in the office and I’m not always there.
Mike: You can have a license.
Brian: Not for pepper spray. You used to have to, but…
Mike: I don’t want to use them on anything. We’ve been very lucky, and I don't have the police stop by. Like many of you know I have brothers in the police department, so if I do call, they do come.
Brian: Okay. I was just wondering it sounds like sometimes you might get—
Mike: But if all of our money comes in, 90 percent of our money is in 5 days.
Brian: But to the point where there are people on the wall, you don’t always have the best people.
Mike: Yes. But…
Mike: But the people outside that live in the building are not the ones I got to worry about. It’s the ones walking around. I don’t let any of my people go across the street and walk at the sidewalk at the Y. Because you got those three. You got the school department, offices, and you got two schools over there. We do have a few level 3 sex offenders, but I CORI check everybody before they come in, but these people were here before I took over. They were here when I first was there.
I talked to the police and they said, “It’s just as easy to let those four, five that I have there. They’re in one spot. If we throw them out, we’re going to spread them all over the city.” They don’t mind. If they don’t check in once a month, the police come over and check on them. Sometimes the police will make a spot check on them, and Mr. [unintelligible 0:33:55] from the police department, he comes around and he does a good job. He checks on them. If they’re not around, he hasn’t seen them, he will track them down and make them come in and check in or whatever.
We get some probation people, too, come in. I do have a manager during the day there, and he does a lot of rent collections. He comes in like the other day, I stopped in to do something around 8 o'clock and the minute I showed up, I had like 10 people at the door, wanting to give me money, so I couldn’t leave. I stayed and I took it.
Brian: I think you answered my question because for us, sometimes security is an issue and I just wanted to protect my staff.
Mike: I understand what you’re saying, but my point is liability is an issue. Even at, I’m still worried and we do knock in, what if I give you a knock in and you jump up and you run out the door and it’s hard to stop you and you run out in front of a bus. Am I going to be liable for saving your life?
Brian: No, but I caught the bus.
Mike: Yes, you caught the bus all right.
Rich: How many hours of continuing ed do you need to be a level 3 sex offender before you get bumped down to the level 2?
Mike: You’re never going down, believe me.
Rich: It’s not?
Mike: No, you stay at level 3.
Rich: That sounds interesting.
Mike: I’m driving down the street. I’m coming back from lunch or something. I drive, come down the street, I see maybe one of them walking around the school on Piedmont Street walking towards it, I stop the car and tell them, “Hey, get back over on our side.” They listen. I mean I don't even have to holler or swear at them. I just got to stop and tell them to go back to our side. Nobody rides in my car. Nobody. You can be dying there, you’re not going to my car because I don't know what you got.
You know there are some people, you got to make shower, we got to tell them to shower. We got to go in and clean their rooms. I mean, CHL might give us some money to clean your rooms or [unintelligible 0:36:00] comes in and cleans them sometimes, but basically we have to do more than anything. Some of these people should be in nursing homes because they have problems going to the bathroom. They’re drunk and then they tumble, or they have problems when they go to the bathroom. There’s a mess either in the bathroom or a trail going to the bathroom.
Audience: Dear Lord.
Mike: We have to do that and then we ended up having to bleach the place.
Rich: I really feel like I’ve never had any landlording problem ever.
Audience: [laughter] [crosstalk 0:36:35]
Female Audience 2: Do you have a waiting list of folks that are trying to get in?
Mike: Yes, we do know.
Female Audience 2: You do?
Mike: Yes, and I just bought a building just last week, 5 Jackson Street, two buildings back from the Albion and they’re like rooms. What I’m trying to do is some of the good people that I have, I’m going to see if they want to move into like one of their efficiency apartments. It has a stove, a refrigerator, and a bed, so I’m going to see if they want to move into them and see.
I mean the city is asking me to do it. They’ve asked me to do it, so I said I can’t do it in the Albion, but I said I’ll try it, and this building just happens to have some vacancies, so I’m going to try it. I know that people, I can get people pay me $800 for a room, and they’re not even questioning it.
Rich: Is it because that they are drunk?
Rich: Or is that just like the market rate right now?
Mike: They like me.
Rich: They like you?
Rich: All right, I like you, Mike. I’m not giving you $800.
Mike: Well, CHL or some of these groups have money. They got payees and they got family that don’t want to keep them in their house, and they bring them over to us.
Rich: Mike, for anybody else in the room, should they get into the rooming business?
Rich: Sandy says no.
Mike: Well, if you want to make money, yes, but I don’t recommend it. It is a tough job.
Rich: Off the top of your head, I’m putting you on the spot.
Mike: Go ahead.
Rich: [crosstalk 0:38:11] and tell us, what would you say is the net operating income of the Albion now as compared to what it was before you got there?
Brian: Don’t answer it.
Mike: It’s a lot more now than it was.
Rich: Okay. If you had to—
Female Audience 3: What percentage? What percentage?
Rich: Yes. Is it like 25 percent more because that would be a lot more or?
Mike: I’m probably about 30 percent more.
Rich: That’s a lot.
Mike: But they had rooms for $400, $500. I’m at $800, $750. Some of the small rooms, I’m still at $650 or whatever but [unintelligible 0:38:48] gives me one check for 15 rooms, so that’s a good haul that they got rid of right off the bat. The check comes to me. CHL sends me checks, but everything is cash.
I used to have a money machine there. The first of the month, people at 12 o'clock in the morning will be down, putting their checks in to get me my money and they wanting to pay at 2:00 in the morning. I told the guy at the desk. I said [crosstalk 0:39:13]
Rich: Or you can’t cook any food, so they needed to find something else to do.
Mike: That’s it. We do take it, but the people that had the money machine didn’t make any money after the first week. They made all their money because they were getting $3 every time you took $200 out of the machine, so they were making money, so they took their machine out because the other three weeks, they weren’t making any money. I did put in a candy and soda machine and put in a check machine in there.
I did bring a lot of other things like that, and I might eventually take a room away and kind of make it like a sitting room for them and don’t let anybody go upstairs and visit because that’s where my drug problems are. There’s people bringing them in. If I keep them at one level. One of the other things is I might get lockers and make everyone lock their backpacks before they go up into the rooms to visit us.
Rich: Interesting! Wow!
Mike: It’s going to be tight security or they’re not going to work.
Rich: Mike O’Rourke, ladies and gentlemen.
Rich: If these folks have any questions or just want to thank you for being a saint, can they come up and talk to you after the meeting or—
Rich: Do you want to hang around?
Brian: What about the cat on the third floor?
Rich: Good lord!
Mike: They do have cats. I don’t want them but I don’t want that dog either, but I went to court, tried to get rid of the dog, and the judge says they can have it. I said, “It’s not fair.” They said they’re calling a dog to help them. They don’t need a dog. They can’t take care of themselves, so why we’re having a dog?
Now the dog, they shaved the hair off the dog. I called the animal rescue. They come right up. They take any animals we want. We do still get the odd not fire but smoky cooking. People leave their food and then they go into their room and they forgot. They left it, so one of the reasons we did the timer, but they still do that in the daytime. That’s why I got someone at the desk, watching the cameras. If they see it, and they don’t see anybody around, they’re supposed to go and check somebody that’s working.
I got a guy that brings all the rubbish from the fifth floor down to the outside, and we pick it up in the morning. If he has a lot, we pick it up in the evening. We do that seven days a week. We pick it up even on Sundays. We might not do my properties on Sundays, but we do, do the Albion on Sundays.
Rich: Thank you very much, Mike. This is why people watch the Jerry Springer’s Show and things like that because they look at that and go, “My life is perfect. I have no problems compared to this, so that was fantastic. Doug and I are going to argue now.
Rich: Right, Doug?
Doug: We’re not going to fight.
Rich: We’re not going to fight. Wow! Yes, thank you very much, Mike.