David Feathers steers his truck up a steep road and parks near a muddy construction site. Gray clouds hover over the nearby mountains. Tree branches tremble in a chilly breeze.
“Right over here will be a home for a family of six,” Feathers says, pointing to a stack of cinder blocks. “On that corner will be a family of five. The next house over is for a single woman raising her granddaughter.”
He drives his truck around a bend in the road.
“And this house – this epitomizes why we do what we do,” he says. “This will be for a family of four. The father is disabled because he was injured in
Feathers works for the
With a new grant from The Duke Endowment, Hinton has expanded the program to include clients with debt and credit issues. By providing counseling and loans, the center supports families as they confront an all-too-common obstacle in
“It could be a $100 phone bill that has been turned into the credit bureau, or a $10,000 doctor bill,” says Feathers, the Self-Help Housing group coordinator. “And everybody has a car payment. In the mountains, you have to have a decent car to get to work – but if you’re making $18,000 a year and you’ve got a $258 a month car payment, that just kills your debt-to-income ratio.”
Charles Penland, the affordable housing coordinator at Hinton, explains further.
“We lost most of our mill jobs around here within the last 10 to 15 years,” he says. “Where people were making $16 to $18 an hour, they’re now making $8 to $9 an hour without health insurance. Fifty-three percent of our applicants are ineligible because of medical debt.”
“We’re not trying to give anybody anything,” Feathers adds. “We are trying to reward people for their willingness to change their own lives.”
Since 1990, the
As Feathers continues his drive through Wesley Meadows, he describes how the program has made a difference.
Before moving to the neighborhood, one neighbor, a certified nursing assistant, was living in a trailer with high rental payments. Another – a soldier back on his third tour of duty in
Feathers stops in front of a green frame house with white rocking chairs on the front porch. Multiple bicycles lie in the grass. A basketball hoop stands next to the asphalt driveway. Feathers recalls that the homeowner and her husband wanted a house big enough for their nieces and nephew to visit.
“Well now they have their nieces and nephew living with them as foster kids,” he says. “Without this house, the kids would have been split up.”
Robert R. Webb III
Director of Rural Church