Finding solace at home

Record Herald | May 29, 2014

Self-Help Housing program offers home ownership opportunities

In her wallet Mary Hamilton keeps a newspaper clipping of an open house held on September 3, 1988. She’d known the little house on Gregg Street in Washington C.H. since she was a child when a relative had owned it. After the open house, Hamilton loved it so much that she made it her own. “I lived there for 18 years,” she said.

But as she got older and began to have issues with her balance, Hamilton struggled to live in the little house that brought her so much happiness. “The house had steps up to the front door and the back door,” she said. “I moved before I couldn’t get up and down the steps anymore.”

Though she’d never done so before, Hamilton made the difficult decision to give up the home that she owned and try apartment living. “I grieved for that house for four years,” she said.

At first apartment life wasn’t bad. Electric baseboard heat kept the place a tad chillier than Hamilton liked, but rent was affordable and the neighbors were quiet so she was relatively content.
After the first two years, though, new noisy neighbors moved in next door and Hamilton’s rent increased for the first time.

“The first year we didn’t get a raise in Social Security benefits, they raised my rent by $10 a month. That’s not much, but it is when you’re on a fixed income,” Hamilton said. “That’s one reason why I wanted to see if I could get out of there.”

Hamilton saw an ad for the Self-Help Housing program through the Community Action Commission of Fayette County and decided to call and get some information. “With the rent and the noise factor, I just wanted to see if I could do something else,” she said.

Hamilton applied to the Self-Help Housing program on March 31, 2011. By July her application had been approved. A little more than a month later, workers began construction. By February of 2012, Hamilton was once again the proud owner of her very own home.

“I loved being in a house. I’d never lived in an apartment before,” Hamilton said. “I knew it was in my very being to be in a house instead.”

Community Action even worked with Hamilton to address her health issues, building her new home on a slab that required no large steps into or out of the home and adding lowered kitchen cabinets that were easier for her to access.

Hamilton, who is retired from a career working for, first, the Lazarus Department Store in downtown Columbus and, later, MAC Tools in Washington C.H., has been in a home of her own again for two years now. With her free time, Hamilton does intricate beautifully made cross-stitching patterns – several of which currently decorate her home. “That’s what I do instead of housework,” she joked. “I do whatever I want since I live alone.”

Today she’s thankful that she contacted Self-Help Housing about once again owning her own home.

“I wouldn’t want to leave,” she said. “And I wouldn’t want to go back to an apartment unless that was my only option.”

The Self-Help Housing program at Community Action has more lots available for homes in Washington C.H., Jamestown and Frankfort. The program can be reached at (740) 335-1831.

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