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City program helps woman get home

[12/9/03]When Jewel Hollings rented her last house, she and her children were always aware of the weather.

When it was freezing outside, it was freezing in that house. When heat simmered outside, Hollings and her children did everything but melt.

Monday, however, officials gathered with her to celebrate purchase of a home of her own.

“I just thank God I can live in a house and not be cold anymore,” Hollings told well-wishers in her living room at 248 Bazinsky Road.

Hollings’ purchase was made possible by a city grant and assistance from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Institute for Disability Studies. She was eligible because her son Ricky, 14, is autistic.

“Ms. Hollings, I want to congratulate you paying taxes and all that stuff,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said at the brief party.

Leyens said his goal was to get 10 people a month in homes they can call their own with the city’s help.

“It doesn’t matter if you have poor credit,” he said. “It just matters that you have a desire to own a home.”

Leona Stringer, housing coordinator for the City of Vicksburg, said Hollings would not have qualified for a conventional loan because taking care of her autistic child has been a full-time job, preventing her from employment outside the home.

Hollings said, however, she was committed to managing her finances. “I don’t drink it up, don’t smoke it up,” she said. “I just try and take care of my bills.”

Stringer said the city has more than 700 people on a waiting list to get government assistance in purchasing a home. She said many people on the list don’t have a commitment to building their credit and following the procedures to get a home.

However, Stringer said those who follow through with the program save money by buying a house.

“Most people end up paying less for their house note than for rent,” she said.

Hollings’ city grant was $5,000 through the 2001 Affordable Housing Program. The Institute for Disability Studies provided $10,000 toward the down payment and closing costs. Monthly payments will be up to Hollings.

The Institute for Disability Studies, based in Hattiesburg, has helped 59 people purchase homes in Mississippi, including two in Vicksburg.

Stringer said since 2001 the city has helped 27 people become homeowners through city programs, adding there are lots of programs available.

The city’s newest homeowner agreed. “If you really want it you can get it,” Hollings said, sitting in her living room.