In 2010 buying a 1981 mobile home felt like a sound decision for Joan and her daughter Shawna. Like many families after the 2008 housing crash, it was a means to getting out of their cramped apartment and into something of the own. When they looked at it the neighborhood was friendly and the inspector they paid gave it a clean bill of health. Since banks are unwilling to issue a loan on structure without a foundation, they borrowed the money from a friend. “We had a lawyer draft up a contract and we paid our friend back over the course of seven years,” says Shawna, “We wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.”
It wasn’t until they moved in that they discovered what their neighbor referred to as a “can of worms.” Instead of replacing the siding, the former owner put new siding on top of the old, sealing in the black mold and other debris. The mobile home was now rotting from the inside out.
As a few years went by, Shawna and Joan often say in unison, “We held things together with duct tape and nail polish.” Then one evening Joan saw a commercial for Habitat for Humanity and learned about the Home Repair program. She had Shawna call the next day, but they were disappointed when they discovered it would be another year before their project could be scheduled.
In the meantime, Shawna attempted to work with two other organizations. The first was unwilling to repair older trailer homes and the second backed out after an environmental review. A corner of the family’s trailer sits on the flood plain, and even with flood insurance, the organization was unwilling to take the risk. “Habitat was the only one that was willing to work with us,” says Shawna, “so we waited.”
When our Home Repair team came in, the two women were feeling defeated, but hopeful. “Bruce and Mark were so kind and respectful. We got really attached to them as people.” Says Shawna. “They worked on our home as if it were their own,” says Joan, “It’s been a miracle on many levels.”
On this, we as Habitat wholeheartedly agree with Joan. The more time our crew spent in the trailer court, the more they got to know not just Shawna and Joan, but the neighbors. Within a few weeks, fixing up Shawna and Joan’s trailer became a neighborhood affair. Michael-Lee from across the street came over to help paint the siding and her 80-year-old father, Andy, who is a former Habitat volunteer, came over to replace the storm door.
Eventually Ashley, their next-door neighbor, saw all the work being done and the mother daughter duo convinced her into applying. Our crew is currently working on Ashley’s home and two more families in the trailer court have been added to our wait list. “I am glad they are working right next door,” says Shawna. “It would have been too hard to say goodbye.”
It has been such a pleasure to serve this family and to serve a community that has been forgotten and underserved.