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Horizon West Condo owners in Waukesha remember building scare one year later

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) — Condo owners reunited today, exactly one year after police forced them to evacuate their Waukesha homes, for fear the building could collapse.

Forty eight units are inside Horizon West Condos. The occupants recall feelings of uncertainty that cold night. Some elderly, some teens, home alone — now, with one common thread — the heartbreak they just can’t shake.

“We’re still here. This hasn’t gone away for them,” said Diane McGeen, daughter of the condo owner.

Diane McGeen’s 87-year-old mom has had a rough year, after the panic of being forced out of her fourth-floor home at Horizon West Condos.

“It was almost like being on the Titanic when it sank. It was 15 minutes, get out, you won’t be able to live here ever again,” said McGeen.

This is Horizon West Condos, on West Avenue in Waukesha today. A year ago, it was declared structurally unsound.

“It was panic everywhere, people in the hallways saying is it true? Is it true? Is this really happening?” said McGeen.

Scars resulted both physical and emotional.

“Moving she had a stress fracture in her back and then that set her off. And then she started having more heart issues,” said McGeen.

Right now, Ione Kohler is back in the hospital, her sixth trip in the last year.

“And before that she was just as vibrant and active and very healthy,” said McGeen.

Of the 48 families affected, we’ve learned some are still homeless — living with a family member, sleeping on couches. Some who chose to rent an apartment have seen their credit take a hit because they could no longer pay their mortgage.

“The last year’s been very hectic. The first two to three months I was in a pretty deep depression,” said Laurel Peterson, condo owner.

Laurel Peterson showed us this photo of her daughter in their second-floor condo before the rush to get out.

“We grabbed what we could. We didn’t know where we were gonna go, what exactly was going on,” said Peterson.

Condo owners have done their best to stick together, filing a lawsuit against travelers insurance for failing to pay claims, but a judge ruled against them. The owners are appealing. Meanwhile, the city’s trying to force condo owners to pay for the building to be demolished.

“Of course, we are all in financial straits, so for us to come up with that kind of cash on our own is next to impossible,” said Peterson.

There’s a hearing in January where a Waukesha County judge is expected to consider demolition of the building.