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Home gone, man pitches a tent

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A debris-strewn patch of dark earth is all that’s left on the spot where Paul Willyard’s home on Newman Loop used to stand.

He still owns the property, near Waccamaw Elementary School, but the single-wide trailer he lived in for more than 20 years was repossessed on Tuesday. Willyard and his roommate, Gary Hayes, were left homeless and unsure where to turn for help.

“We’re pitching a two-man tent in the backyard and calling it a camp out,” Willyard, 53, said that afternoon, offering a weary smile.

Though he had watched his home hauled away only minutes ago, he was taking it in stride and trying to keep things light.

“It’s either laugh or cry,” he said. “I’d rather laugh.”

This is the latest in a series of recent misfortunes for Willyard. His wife of 19 years, Kathy, died less than two months ago of a heart condition.

He lost his part-time security job last year and has been living solely off disability benefits. Willyard had a stroke when he was 29 and has been handicapped ever since. His right arm is “dead” and he walks with a pronounced limp.

Willyard knew he was behind on his payments, but he didn’t realize how close he was to being without a roof over his head. He’s been sending partial payments, but what he could afford didn’t come close to the $240 a month he owed.

“By the time my bills get paid and I get a little bit of food there’s really nothing left,” he said.

“Last year, my family got together to make some payments, but they could only do so much.”

Hayes had just moved in with him to help with the bills and they said they would have been able to make the payments after that.

“I’ve got a good job,” said Hayes, who works in construction.

But Willyard’s time had run out. He was 14 months behind on the payments and owed Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance $17,500 on the mobile home, said Earl Campbell. His company, Campbell’s Mobile Home Service of Cheraw, was contracted by Vanderbilt to take possession of the home.

“Vanderbilt is a good company,” Campbell said. “They will work with you, but the bad thing is they haven’t had any contact from [Willyard] in a year.”

Willyard received notices from the company, but “he didn’t know what he was looking at,” said Julie Setliff, his next door neighbor. She said his wife used to take care of most of the finances, but had been unable to do so for some time before her death.

Campbell and his team showed up at Willyard’s door at around 9:30 a.m. Monday and Willyard was told to pack what he could. They planned to move the trailer that afternoon unless Willyard could come up with the $17,500 he owed.

It wasn’t long after that Shelvy Ward showed up. A long-time friend of Willyard and his wife, she said she hadn’t been able to get in touch with him the day before and wanted to check on him.

Ward and Setliff tried to help find a way for Willyard to keep the mobile home, calling on housing groups and anyone they could think of who might be able to offer assistance.

Setliff works two jobs, but tackled Willyard’s situation in between her day job and her night job. Her family took over when she had to leave for work.

“He’s a nice man and nobody in the neighborhood wanted to see this happen to him,” she said of Willyard. “This is a close-knit community and we try to look out for each other.”

She said everyone in the neighborhood tried to help Willyard, including one neighbor, Paulette Glisson, who is bedridden. She made phone calls on Willyard’s behalf.

They thought they had a solution when Jessica Sports, the girlfriend of Setliff’s son, contacted someone who said they would lend Willyard the money to pay off the house in exchange for the deed to the land. The deed would have been given back if Willyard repaid the loan and he would have been able to stay on the property in the meantime.

Campbell called Vanderbilt and the company agreed to give Willyard an hour for the check to be delivered. Campbell and his men went to lunch and were assured when they got back that the money was on its way, but hours later, there was no sign of the man who was supposed to bring it.

At around 4 p.m., Vanderbilt was calling and Campbell had given Willyard all the time he could.

“I tried to help the guy out,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to take his house. I feel bad for him.”

But Campbell couldn’t afford to jeopardize his livelihood by not doing the job he was hired for, he told Willyard and his neighbors.

He doesn’t like doing repossessions.

“I never messed with a repo when the economy was good, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive,” Campbell said.

Ultimately, Willyard was given until Tuesday morning to come up with the money, but it never arrived and the house was taken away just after lunch.

Willyard and Hayes were able to get most of their possession out first, so they have a refrigerator hooked up outside the tent and a TV set up inside. Everything else is stacked in a shed on the property and Willyard and Hayes said they plan to have a yard sale on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 235 Newman Loop to raise money for a new home.

They were offered a camper for $800 and Willyard was also told he can have a used trailer if he comes up with $2,000 to transport it to his property.

Charlie Ball, executive director of Friendship Place, a faith-based nonprofit, met with Willyard on Wednesday after he heard about his situation. He offered to find him a temporary place to stay, but Willyard didn’t want to leave his dogs and his possessions.

Getting a new trailer for Willyard is “a bigger gift than we can provide,” Ball said. But the group will make sure Willyard stays fed and warm.

The Georgetown County Housing Partnership is aware of Willyard’s situation and is working on the problem, but they don’t have housing available right now.

Georgetown County United Way is accepting donations to help Willyard get a new home. Checks should be made payable to the organization and marked for Willyard.

Mail donations to P.O. Box 1065, Georgetown, SC 29442.

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