Local woman receives grant for home repairs

Published 11:32 am Monday, June 23, 2014

By John Surratt



Martha Knight had a serious problem.

Her house on China Grove Lane where she has lived for 30 years was feeling its age and in need of repair.

“The shingles on the roof were curling up, and the shutters by my windows were falling down,” she said. “I have a gutter that runs in the front of my house, and it leaked. The tub in my bathroom leaked.”

Knight, 76, who is on a fixed income, was unable to hire professional contractors to do the work, and was forced to either hire the people she could afford to fix the house or try making repairs herself. The work, however, was substandard, and the problems returned.

“I had somebody come fix my shutters, but they didn’t do a good job,” she said. “They were supposed to put in cement bolts to hold them, but they used nails instead, and every time the wind blew, they’d swing and fall, and I’d have to put them back up.”

Another man tried to fix her gutters, but the clamps he used didn’t hold. “I tried to hold them up with duct tape,” she said, adding she tried to fix the leak at the tub with plywood and duct tape.

It was a telephone call from “a man who told me he could help me get a loan,” to fix the house that led to her to get the money she needed to have the repairs done right.

The caller told her to go to a computer and call up a website to help get the loan, she said.

But when she went to the Warren County Public Library, she said, someone there told her to talk to Leona Stringer, then housing director for the City of Vicksburg, who told her about the Special Needs Assistance Program.

Known as “SNAP,” the grant program is administered through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, to provide grants to help qualified low-income and special needs homeowners make repairs to their homes. Knight received a $5,000 grant to fix her house in January.

Financial institutions in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico, including Trustmark Bank, which helped Knight get the grant, own the Federal Home Loan Bank.

“The money comes from Affordable Housing (Act) funds,” said Jean Jones, a Vicksburg resident and vice president/community affairs coordinator for Trustmark, who helped Knight get her grant.

At first, she said, the AHA funds were used to help first-time homebuyers secure funding to make a down payment on a new home.

“Later they discovered a need for repairing and renovating homes to make them safer,” she said.

Jones said the program is open to people who are over 55, have special needs, are low- to moderate-income, and are either buying, or own, or working to own, their home. The maximum grant amount is $5,000.

“We can retrofit a house for handicap accessibility, make it safe, and renovate it for heating and air conditioning, or do other repairs,” she said, “People who qualify and want to participate can go through the City of Vicksburg.”

The homeowner is allowed to select a local contractor for the work. If they are unable to select one, grant officials will go through the city to select a contractor. The local bank keeps the grant money for the homeowner and releases the funds for payment after the work is inspected and approved by a third party selected by the banks. The homeowner does not get any money left after the work has been completed.

“They put on a new roof and fixed my shutters right,” Knight said. “They put new clips on my gutters, and they took out the plywood and fixed the leak put new tile in my bathroom. My spirit has been lifted. I thought I was going to have to live with my problems. I’m glad they’re fixed.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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