Doubling Up in a Double-Wide
“This shack is all mine” Pat says with a good natured laugh, but behind the laughter is frustration and weariness as well. “The floors are caving in because of years of water damage . Some of the leaks in the roof go straight into the light fixtures. Every time I turned on a light, I was afraid I’d start a fire or get electrocuted.”
Pat lives in a 3 bedroom double-wide trailer shared by 7 people. Her son and his 3 teenage children, a 3 month-old great-granddaughter, herself and her husband all share a 24 x 60 foot space. “The 16 year-old and his dad share one bedroom, my grand-daughter and her baby are in another room, and the 13 year-old girl sleeps on the couch in the living room. She is growing up without any privacy.”
Her son moved in seven years ago when his marriage ended. As a single parent, he looked for a 3 bedroom house for his family that he could afford on his salary, but could not find anything. He works full-time as a shift supervisor at Wal-Mart making a little more than minimum wage, but lower than living wage. “My wish for my son is for him to find his own house nearby, so I can still keep an eye on the grandkids while he’s at work. But they need their own space. We’re all on top of each other here.”
The repairs needed on the double-wide started piling up. Some of the housing issues were starting to affect the children’s health, such as black mold. Her disabled husband is unable to leave the house, because he cannot climb the 24 stairs leading to the top of the driveway. Pat has had both knees replaced. “We need a ramp,” she says matter-of-factly.
With help from local agencies, Pat is slowly getting repairs done to the house. Local non-profit Mountain Housing Opportunities came out and fixed the bathroom so her husband could maneuver comfortably. “The floor was completely caved in, and the shower was too small to fit his chair. Using both volunteers and professional labor, the Mountain Housing Opportunities Emergency Home Repair Program eliminates immediate threats to life, health and safety in the homes of low income homeowners with special needs — elderly, disabled, single parent and families with three or more dependent children. This program serves over 250 people on average a year.
Through a partnership between local non-profit Children First/CIS and the Cathedral of All Souls Episcopal Church, the roof was completely rehabbed. “Once the volunteers from All-Souls Church got up there, they ripped the whole roof off and put in 15 new sheets of plywood and all new shingles. It would have cost me close to $10,000 to fix my roof,” Pat says shaking her head. “ I would have just kept plastic on it until it completely caved in. There was no chance of these repairs being made without help.”
Although her home is slowly getting repaired, Pat still dreams of having more space for herself and her son’s family. She wishes he could make enough money at his job to be able to afford his own home, where each child could have their own room. Many workers in Buncombe County, like Pats’ son, struggle to find jobs that pay a wage that allows them to meet the high costs of housing. The NC Budget and Tax Center, just released a report showing that a one-parent, two child household needs to earn $21.25 an hour to adequately meet basic expenses.
As the mother of four and the grandmother of eight, she says, “my dream is to have my house in the center and all my kids would have their own house. We’d all be together, but have our own space.”
Pat’s story highlights the spectrum of housing experiences that many families experience – doubling up, unhealthy living conditions, lack of privacy and home disrepair. Pat’s success equation is a blend of her determination and resourcefulness, local nonprofits, and assistance from faith organizations. United as a community, we can ensure that the public and private supports exist for Pat and so many others seeking an opportunity to thrive.
Asheville’s City Council has prioritized affordable housing in its strategic plan. In this year’s budget, Council has allocated $1 Million to go towards affordable housing initiatives in Asheville. We applaud Council’s commitment and encourage them to continue to work towards the recommendation to increase their affordable housing trust fund to $1.1 Million. Click here to send a letter to support City Council and the Housing Trust Fund.
This story is part of a series collected by The Success Equation. Under the umbrella of Children First/CIS, the Success Equation is an initiative that unites community to reduce and prevent poverty so all children can thrive. Partners include the Cathedral of All Souls, Girl Scouts Peak to Piedmont, Junior League of Asheville, Just Economics, Innovative Partners International, Searchlight Consulting, Smart Start of Buncombe County, Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation, and YWCA. To find out more go to find out more, go to www.childrenfirstcisbc.org
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