A nonprofit that does home improvements for low-income families says its mission is complete in a Point Breeze dwelling, but the homeowner disagrees.
Judy Walston’s dream of a refurbished home was starting to come true Nov. 11, 2008, when repairs began in her Point Breeze dwelling. More than a year later, she says the dream has turned into a nightmare for her and her 14-year-old daughter, Monique.
As the saying goes, there’s two sides to every story and the 57-year-old’s differs drastically from representatives of Ray of Hope Project Inc., which helps low-income families whose homes are in need of fixing up. The North Philly nonprofit did work in Walston’s rowhome on the 1400 block of South Bouvier Street.
Walston claims Ray of Hope has left her high and dry, with many of her rooms in disrepair and unusable when the work ceased.
“I was so excited about this whole project, now I’m just very hurt. I’m tired of living this way,” she said.
No plumbing in the kitchen has meant washing dishes and preparing dinner in her second-floor bathroom, and a shower that isn’t hooked up has had her and her child relying on a friend for cleanups.
But on the organization’s home page, www.rayofhopeproject.org, the primary mission statement is, “the rehabilitation of existing homes. Through the help of donations, volunteers and a capable staff of qualified contractors, The Ray of Hope Project is able to provide services such as roof repair, siding repair and handicapped-accessibility features, to mention only a few.”
Ray of Hope co-founder Ray Gant claims his mission is complete and, after having worked in Walston’s two-story, two-bedroom dwelling for the last year, he sent her a letter in October stating as much.
“I told her we were only there to repair structural damage. We don’t come there to remodel houses. We come to help people with the structural damage of the home,” Gant told the Review last week. “The rest of the work comes on them. We don’t come in and do cosmetic work. We don’t put kitchen cabinets in. We don’t do stucco work or anything else. If she thought for any reason that someone was coming in to do an extreme home makeover, she misunderstood.”
Walston insists she did not misunderstand Ray of Hope’s intentions and the organization does not create contracts with homeowners.
“If that’s all [Ray of Hope] did then why did you scrape the paint off my walls in my bedroom? Why did he take the tub out to build a shower? That’s not structural damage. If it’s just structural, why did he give me a new sink and toilet?,” she asked.
Gant said water-damaged floors and walls from a leaking roof necessitated removing many appliances, not only in the bathroom, but the kitchen. As to why there’s no running water in the kitchen, Gant said, “She didn’t have running water in that kitchen. We didn’t take nothing from her that she didn’t have.”
As far as the shower goes, Walston was responsible for buying the part she needed to make it work after a team of volunteers built a stall for her in September, he said.
In November ’08, 23 volunteers from an Atlanta college ministry began working in Walston’s water-damaged dwelling.
“The big problem was a bad roof that caused all the damage to her kitchen and bathroom. We put a brand-new roof on, put beams and reframed the [kitchen] floor,” Gant said, adding the new roof cost about $2,400.
Founded in October ’02 by Gant and Huntington Park businessman Willard Bostock, Ray of Hope uses recycled materials that are purchased through fundraising or donated by individuals and businesses. The organization depends on volunteers, from former convicts, like Gant himself, to college students and skilled contractors, to carry out the work.
A meeting three years ago at a Point Breeze neighborhood cleanup, where Gant and Walston connected, got the fixing up going with Gant agreeing to help the single mother after she told him about her situation.
Sept. 18 was the final time work was done in Walston’s home and the last time she said she saw Gant. A team of volunteers from GlaxoSmithKline, working through Philadelphia Cares, an organization for which Gant has ties, came to the house that day and painted the dining room, put in drop ceiling panels, painted the kitchen walls, applied sheetrock to the ceiling and painted it, put up smoke detectors and replaced a light fixture in the stairwell leading to the second floor.
Walston said the dining room, where she keeps her TV and computer, is the only area that is 100-percent fixed. Her living room, she claims, is not usable since the old tile is coming up and a leak in the ceiling from an upstairs air conditioner has damaged the walls.
Aside from no stove, sink or running water, Walston’s biggest issue with her kitchen is the wooden-framed floor she said is wobbly.
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