Skip to comments.Family of 20 determined to keep condemned home
Posted on 08/15/2003 5:03:16 PM PDT by Born Conservative
A North Scranton family with 18 children is determined to keep their Habitat for Humanity home, which was declared unfit for human habitation last month.
The city condemned the 2517 N. Main Ave. home of Charles and Barbara Smith on July 29 for debris outside and inside the house, and because the Scranton Sewer Authority shut off the water on July 24, said Bill Fiorini, director of permits, inspections and licensing.
Mr. Smith, who said the city should have let his family stay in the house while they correct the violations, said they have until October to fix the problems or else they will lose the house.
The Smiths and 14 of their children, ages 3 to 21, are staying several blocks away at the home of one of their older sons, Mr. Smith said.
Habitat for Humanity, which renovates abandoned houses into affordable homes for first-time, low-income owners, bought and fixed up the North Main Avenue duplex for the Smiths, converting it into a single-family home with 10 bedrooms and three bathrooms. In March 2000, the family moved in.
As the largest biological family ever to obtain a house through Habitat for Humanity, the Smiths were featured in the Sunday New York Times as well as on the ABC-TV newsmagazine "20/20."
But the family, relying solely on Mrs. Smith's income as a housekeeper, fell behind on their sewer payments by 13 months, owing $1,600 to the Scranton Sewer Authority, Mr. Smith said Thursday afternoon. As a result, their water was shut off.
A former auto mechanic, Mr. Smith said he is no longer able to work because of heart problems. The family kept up on their $115-a-month mortgage payments and other utility bills, but those and other expenses left no money for sewer payments, which were $123 a month, he said.
"We busted our humps to get that house through Habitat," Mr. Smith said. "Whatever it takes, we're getting back into that house. We don't want people making us out to be a bad family just because we're having a hard time maintaining our house. We're decent people. We're just having a tough time because we're low income."
Mr. Smith said the violations include some damaged light bulb fixtures, which he said he tried to repair, and a missing electrical junction box lid in the laundry room, which he said he replaced. He said other violations included missing ceiling tiles in the pool table room, which he said he took down after his children damaged them with pool sticks.
Habitat director Ozzie Quinn said his agency and Lackawanna County Children and Youth Services support keeping the family in their home.
Children and Youth caseworker Kerry Kimmick said her agency deemed the home habitable for children during its last visit there, but said she couldn't recall when the last visit took place. Ms. Kimmick said the agency has not visited the home since it was condemned. And without a copy of the list of code violations, Children and Youth cannot determine if the house is still fit for children, she said.
"The city should have notified us before condemning the house," Mr. Quinn said. "Had we known ahead of time, we could have tried to prevent this."
Mr. Fiorini said the city did not notify Habitat because the Smiths own the home, even though the Smiths make mortgage payments to Habitat.
"The family didn't let us know they were having problems keeping up on the utility payments. Otherwise, we would have tried to help," Mr. Quinn said.
"We didn't let anyone know because we don't like going to others for help unless it's absolutely necessary," Mr. Smith said. "We don't like being thought of as one of those families who take assistance they don't really need."
The local news had film footage of the house, and it was just unbelievable-holes in walls, broken windows, etc. It's ASTONISHING that Habitat for Humanity would even CONSIDER continuing to offer this family further assistance.
NO MORE FREEBIES!
If you want on the new list, FReepmail me. This IS a high-volume PING list...
From The New York Times, Sunday, March 5, 2000:
Home Free At Last, a Family Reunites
By FRANCIS X. CLINES
DATELINE: SCRANTON, Pa., March 1, 2000
Married 12 years, in love for 22, Barbara and Charlie Smith have created 17 children and there are times when Mrs. Smith has sensed disdain laced into the curiosity of people who were in wonder at their feat.
"Some people have that look, you know, and they ask 'Oh my God, how do you do it?' " Mrs. Smith said as her youngest, 18-month-old Steven, lolled underfoot and the eldest, 18-year-old Chad, took a break from painting a bedroom of his own, the first he has ever had.
Mr. Smith, who delights in the size of his family, rolled up his left sleeve to show his tattooed roll call of children's names.
"Here they are, every one of my little kiddies, except . . ." He paused and squinted about, checking the tattoo against the impish faces scattered around him.
"Except the three youngest," Mrs. Smith interjected, and there was great laughter at her husband's struggle to recall all the names and the observation that, well, he always has another arm.
Dad's difficulty was not hard to understand -- keeping the names straight was complicated by the children's fondness for nicknames. So let the record show that as the Smith family ended a harrowing stretch of homelessness, in which the children had to be parceled out in this ultimately generous city and they feared for their own solidarity, the roster from eldest to youngest ran somewhat as follows:
Chad, Brian (Bri), twins Ashley (Betsy) and Eric (Feedhead), Danielle (Megan), Dustin (Bundy), Charles (Chewy), Kricket, Casey (Pie), Bristy (Starla), twins Trysta (Gaga) and Kysta (Kooter), Kaylee, Skyler (Howie), Shawn (Mikey or Bighead), Corry and Steven (Puggy).
For much of the past year, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, evicted from a condemned house, had to make daily rounds of assorted havens in the city to collect their children for school and then again for the evening common meal and baths at a relative's house, and finally back to their separate sleeping berths.
"We were together and the next day we were all scattered," Mrs. Smith, 43, said of the bad spell when even the city's welfare and housing agencies despaired of finding them a place that was big enough and affordable.
"The kids were afraid we'd never be back together again as a family," she said, relating how the family was bucked by city authorities to the American Red Cross as a disaster case.
"Who's going to take in a family of 17 kids?" asked Robert E. Quinn, the director of Habitat for Humanity for Lackawanna County. "These days the government can't handle it when you have 17 kids."
Mr. Quinn, a Scranton native and seasoned housing worker, found a way to bring the Smiths back together in a home of their own, earning himself the nickname Ozzie when the children found out that he does not like one of his given names, Oswald.
"Hey, Ozzie, what's happening?" a pug-faced tyke (Chewy? Bighead?) shouted from the porch of the Smith's 10-bedroom home in north Scranton's Marvin section, an appropriately resilient neighborhood where miners once raised families.
The reunited Smiths have been breezing through the rooms of the 80-year-old frame house fixed up through the labor of hundreds of Scranton volunteers. There were also more than 2,000 hours of "sweat equity" from the family -- nine times the minimum required by Habitat, the 24-year-old international charity for self-help shelter.
"Lifesavers," Mr. Smith said of Habitat and the Scranton residents who rebuilt the house and donated 16 roomfuls of furniture. "You don't see a large family today; especially you don't see a large family that's still together."
Across the dining room, his wife tended some of the children and said gently, "No more problems. I don't consider the kids a problem."
Mr. Smith, who has made his living by helping children get on and off school buses said he was eager to take on the $150 monthly carrying charge for the home. The fright of seeing his family homeless and fractured had made him desperate, he said.
"We were at the point of pitching a big tent," he said as he looked about his home. "If it wasn't for my kids, I'd have gone off the deep end. I look at the act of God and he comes out and says, 'Bite your tongue, hold your peace, and you'll make it through.' And that's what we've been doing."
There should be a "victory celebration," not a mere housewarming, Mr. Smith suddenly announced. "We're back together once again."
"I'm looking forward to my bedroom," he said. "Just for taking a long sleep."
Mrs. Smith openly cherished the family sanctuary. "I want to lock the door and cry," she said. The children laughed at that idea, and made their mother smile.
Screw them and put them out on the street!!! Maybe then one of those lazy bastards will get a job!!!!
This makes me sick ping
Here in Houston one's sewer bill is based on water usage and I would imagine twenty people in one house uses a LOT of water!!!!
H for H gifted this family with a new (renovated) home for a MINIMAL outlay on the family's part in physical and financial investment. $115 a month mortgage payments???
The family shows their appreciation of the house and its value to them by trashing it. Rock stars would be amazed by the destruction.
They get behind on other utility payments (awww...he can't work because of "heart problems" - is that the new version of "bad back"? Excuses...what about my co-worker with MS, or the 3 cancer survivors there, or the guy who had a triple bypass in January? They all work.)
missing ceiling tiles in the pool table room, which he said he took down after his children damaged them with pool sticks
POOL ROOM??? How many HONEST WORKING people don't have a POOL ROOM? I don't!
Now they have the unmitigated gall to complain when they are to be evicted for being PIGS.
My maternal great-grandparents were very poor. No electricity, running water, radio, car, or maid service. No one gave them a handout (which they wouldn't have accepted anyway). They did not trash their home; in fact it was kept neat as a pin. She worked like a dog around the home and small farm they had. He not only worked on their acreage but ran a struggling concrete business in town. She had 4 children to care for too; he battled heart problems but still worked 16 hours or more per day.
Funny how they managed without assistance. And my great-great grandparents did much the same with 12 kids to raise.
I have NO sympathy for this family's "plight". They made their sty; now they can lie in it.
(Groucho Marx) "And how many children do you have?"
(Groucho) "Seven? That many?"
(Lady, blushing) "Well, I love my husband."
(Groucho) "Lady, I love my cigar too. But I take it out every once in a while."
Sorry to hear that. But, who "slammed" you? Certainly not me.
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