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Affordable housing: Home for the holidays? A family waits
By Jackie R. Broach
After nearly two years of waiting and praying, Kalascica Bethea, 31, finally got some good news last week.
She and her 11-year-old son might be able to move into a mobile home that was donated to them by Christmas.
It’s not the news she was wishing for. She was hoping they could move in sooner or at least get a definite date. But after such a long time bouncing back and forth between relatives and having no place to call home, she’s happy just to have hope.
“It’s been so hard just waiting,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks. “I’ve got good people around me, doing everything they can for me and I’m so thankful, but it’s been hard.”
Bethea was left homeless after fleeing an abusive relationship several years ago. She went to Citizens Against Spouse Abuse for help and spent two years in a shelter. She went back to school, trained to be a certified nursing assistant and got a job with Comfort Keepers, a business that provides in-home care services.
When she left the shelter, she saved up to buy a used mobile home for $1,000 and spent almost $2,000 more to clear a small lot in Parkersville her mother told her she could put the trailer on.
“I thought I would be able to set it up and move in,” Bethea said, “but it was too old and I wasn’t able to.”
The mobile home was manufactured in 1976 and would be nearly impossible to bring up to code, so it sits dark and vacant on the land Bethea someday hopes to call home. Even if she could repair it enough to make it livable, she used all her savings on the purchase and getting the land ready.
Unsure where to turn, she did some research and came across the Georgetown Housing Partnership, an agency that helps low income property owners using funding from various sources, including grants and donations. They agreed to help her, but getting the funds released to do so has been a long process.
“We’re having to pull from different funding sources,” said Becky Green, a client services representative for the partnership. “She’s been approved [by the partnership] and we’re working, but when you fill out grants, it’s a case of having to hurry up and wait. We’re at the point where we’re pulling everything together and trying to figure out who pays for what. We’ve got all our stuff in, but we’re waiting for the OKs” from grant providers.
The mobile home that will replace the one on Bethea’s land was donated by John Howard of Howard Homes in Georgetown and is ready to be moved to the property, but that can’t be done until funding is released. For now, her home is sitting on rented space, which Bethea has to pay $200 a month for — an expense she can’t afford. And because the trailer has been there longer than originally expected, she has been told the rent will go up if she doesn’t move it soon, she said.
But the partnership can only pay to move the home once with the funding sources available, so when it’s moved, it will have to be to Bethea’s land off Archer Road.
Before that happens, a well and septic tank need to be put in on the property. The cost of that is estimated at about $10,000 and the money isn’t in place yet.
One of the challenges in getting the funding is that the partnership normally helps to repair homes, not replace them, said Jessie Walker of Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments, a partner in the program with the United Methodist Relief Center.
“We have to tell a story and make a convincing argument that, in your case, you can’t repair the home,” Walker told Bethea last week. “We’re working on your story.”
She hopes to have that written this month, find a contractor and get some light repairs to the home done. A necessary inspection will take a little more time. Everything should be done by Christmas, she said, but she didn’t make any promises. With the constraints on grant funding, she can’t.
“I know they’re doing all they can,” Bethea said.
But she doesn’t like seeing her son suffer.
“Kids tease him,” she said, getting emotional again. It breaks her heart to know that, especially because he’s so understanding. She said she tries to buy him things sometimes — toys or new clothes so he can have some of what other kids have.
“He says, ‘No, mama, you save the money for the house.’ He’s such a good child and I just feel so helpless sometimes.”
But she said she’ll never stop feeling grateful for all the people who have helped her, including Bill Bryan, a lawyer in Murrells Inlet who volunteered his services to help work out heirs property issues for her land, and Jane Rogers who has helped her throughout her long wait.
“God must be looking out for me, because I’ve been blessed to have these people come into my life,” she said. “No matter what happens, I just want to say thank you. There’s nothing I can do to pay them back, but I thank God for all of them.”
Donations can be mailed to the Georgetown Housing Partnership, 325 Dozier St., Georgetown, SC 29440.