Town Grant Helps Single Mom Make A Home

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Jill Morris knows she has a lot to be thankful for this week -- and every week.

The single mother was the recipient of a grant from the Payson Community Development Office, making it possible to put a new roof over her head and that of her 2-year-old daughter, Faith.

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Jill Morris and daughter, Faith, are waiting for the work on their home to be finished through the town's housing rehabilitation program.

The grant was part of the town's home rehabilitation program, which is coordinated by Marcy Rogers with community development.

"It's an answer to a prayer," Morris said, "It started when I was praying about a problem I was having with cats in the neighborhood."

She called the town about the cats and Marcy Rogers was sent to her home.

"She took care of the cat problem and told me about the housing project," she said.

Morris said since the program was for people with low incomes and she was working at Chaparral Pines at the time. She did not think she would qualify.

"Marcy said I might be eligible though, so I made an appointment and filled out an application," Morris said.

Rogers said the town's application for the rehabilitation program is quite simple. The program does, in fact, have income restrictions, but a variety of factors are looked at when assessing whether someone can qualify.

"It's on a first-come, first-serve basis," Rogers said, "But if the homeowner is elderly or a single parent, is in the redevelopment area or has an emergency need, it can be moved up in priority."

With the difference between what Morris made and what she had in expenses, she discovered she was eligible. Being a single mother and living in the redevelopment area -- the area west of Beeline Highway, south of West Bonita Street, east of Oak Street, and north of West Pine Street -- added to her qualifications for the program.

"My roof is moldy," Morris said, explaining the problems in her house. "The back wall of my bedroom felt like a refrigerator when you put your hand on it. The wood floors were ice cold during the winter. The heating was so old-fashioned, the vents had knob controls."

Morris and her daughter are staying in an apartment not far from her home while the work is being done.

To make the transition between homes easier on her child, Morris stopped working in September, but once she is back in her home she hopes to open both a child care center and a healing center. Morris is trained in both yoga and massage.

"They put shingles on the roof and lifted it to put in new insulation. I'm getting new windows and a new heater," Morris said.

The inside will be painted too.

Morris has been in Payson since 1998. She said she dreamed of finding a little log cabin in the pines, with lace curtains, a wagon wheel chandelier and wood floors. She was not even looking for a house though when someone she worked with said she should see the place she now owns.

"I want to give a great big thank you to the people at town hall for being part of answering a prayer," Morris said. "I'd also like to give a warm-hearted thanks to those who have been caring and helpful at Chaparral Pines -- they know who they are. I thank God for answering my prayers and I believe there are more miracles to come."

The rehab program

Payson's owner-occupied home rehabilitation program has been operating for a little more than two years and in that time, 35 homes have been improved, or in the case of a couple of manufactured homes, replaced entirely.

"We have 17 families on our waiting list, which is about 32 people," Rogers said.

The wait is about 18 months now, she said. The maximum that can be spent on a project is $20,000, but not every project takes the maximum funding, Rogers said.

The manufactured homes replaced were single-wide units and the program participants had to make financial arrangements for the balance due after the $20,000 was paid. Rogers said they had to come up with between $2,000 and $8,000. She said they either make arrangements with their families for the additional funds or use their property to secure a loan.Not everyone can qualify for the rehabilitation program, but Rogers is always looking for ways to help the people who come to see her.

Most of the funds for the program to rehabilitate homes in Payson comes from the Community Development Block Grants, but Rogers is looking for more money all the time. Right now she is searching for a way to provide legal services to the community's low-income residents. She also would like to know of any groups in the Rim country that can help with interim repairs, especially for people who reside in their own manufactured homes, but live in a trailer park.

She said the application process for home rehabilitation is simple.

"In addition to the application, we need something that verifies income and the applicants have to have homeowners insurance," she said.

People don't need to have the kind of structural problems Morris has with her house to be considered for the program.

"Even if all someone needs is a handicap ramp, they can talk to me about it," Rogers said.

She considers the benefits of the program include more than just helping the applicants.

Call (928) 474-5242, ext. 269 for more information.

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