Housing Funding For Low-Income Gets Chopped | Politics

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Housing Funding For Low-Income Gets Chopped
Housing Funding For Low-Income Gets Chopped

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Mellerlee Bing sat happily on her new sturdy front porch Friday.

With a big smile, the senior citizen said, "I sat on this porch last night. It was hot [inside] and I put a chair out and sat on this porch."

Bing's porch is drastically different from the rest of her 600 square foot home in West Augustine.  Her father built the house in 1925 and much of it is rotting, termite-invested, and in dire need of repair.

Talking about the former rickety porch with rotten wood, Bing said, "I had people come see me. A couple like to went through the hole [on the porch]. The first thing I said - gotta repair the porch. I might be the next to go through the porch!"

Inside, the conditions are not good either.  The walls and ceiling have holes in them.  And there's no running water in the kitchen, not even a sink.  Bing fills a bucket from the spigot outside and carries the water into the house.

Just like a new porch, Bing will soon have running water too.  Bing is getting this help from the State Housing Initiative Partnership - or SHIP fund.   It's money that St. Johns County uses to repair homes for low income and often elderly people.  The money pays for the supplies and for contractors' labor.

Bill Lazar is the director of the St. Johns County Housing Partnership.  He said the funds provide economic development. "It creates jobs in the community."

Ms. Bing is one of the last people to get this kind of help in the St. Johns County.  Lazar said the legislature cut the SHIP funding statewide. 

Critics say the state should not pay for this kind of work during a sour economy. However, Lazar says it's worth it.

"Let's be realistic. Tax dollars are our money. That's where the state's money comes from. It comes from property and sales taxes. That money goes to Tallahassee. Their job is to send it back out."

Lazar said St. Johns County has received more than a million dollars a year in SHIP funding.  Now the work will be up to volunteers to do -- but organizers say not as much work will be done -- which can lead to dangerous living conditions and illnesses or deaths.

Cody Stanley was one of several people working on Bing's house. He was tending to the termite-infested floor, literally lifting the sunken floor off of the ground Friday.  Stanley said this kind of work brings great satisfaction, "It's dirty work but we enjoy doing it because the results are fantastic. To see people sit on their front porch that they had not been able to sit on in years... is great."

Meanwhile, Bing sat - happy as a clam - on her front porch.  That big smile came over her face again and she said, "That's a blessing right there. The Lord sent me a good blessing."




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