Chad and Amanda Horton are shown with their five children, ages 7-15, on Monday in front of their Rogersville Housing Authority apartment. Contributed photo.
ROGERSVILLE — The power of prayer can’t be underestimated, but it has yet to be determined if that will be enough to help a Rogersville family of seven who are on the verge of becoming homeless.
With police expected to serve an eviction notice at any moment, and nowhere else left to turn, Chad and Amanda Horton went to the Of One Accord ministry in Rogersville Monday morning seeking help for themselves and their five children, ages 7-15.
The first thing ministry officials did was pray with the Hortons. Then they got to work finding a solution.
The Lord must have been listening, because as of Monday night the Hortons were still in their Rogersville Housing Authority apartment.
But they’re prepared to hear the police knock at the door at any time to serve an eviction notice, which the RHA had promised would be forthcoming on Monday.
Monday was a very difficult day for the family, which has also had a tough year. The troubles began with their house burning down in February.
On disability, Chad is a survivor of colon cancer. He has lost most of his small intestine over the course of nine surgeries.
Amanda recently lost her job and is seeking disability.
They currently owe the RHA nearly $2,000 for back rent, late fee penalties and court fees.
There was some hope Monday morning, and Chad and Amanda sent their five children to school fully expecting to raise enough money to save their apartment.
Chad met a man Monday morning to sell the property on Old Route 70-N where his house burned. During that meeting, however, the couple was devastated to learn that the man was unable to raise the money and had to back out of the deal.
When the children came home from school Monday, Chad and Amanda were faced with the task of telling them to pack because they might be outdoors at any minute.
Making matters worse, their vehicle was recently repossessed, so they couldn’t even sleep in their car.
On Monday, they were driving a compact Dodge Neon borrowed from Amanda’s sister, but no family members have space to put up the family when they’re evicted.
“This morning they gave us 30 minutes to either have the money or they would start moving our stuff out on the curb,” Chad said. “We really don’t know yet what we’re going to do. Just whatever we can find and the Good Lord blesses us with.”
Chad’s lifelong friend Melinda Fields works as office manager at Of One Accord ministry’s Shepherd Center in downtown Rogersville.
“I’ve known Chad since we were kids, and they are good people,” Fields said. “This is not how they’ve lived. There’s just been so much happen to them. His dad died this year, and in 2009 his dad’s home burned down and his brother died in that fire. And then there’s his cancer and his surgeries. They don’t ask for help, but I think they’ve just reached the end of their rope.”
Fields and Of One Accord director Sheldon Livesay prayed with the Hortons late Monday morning. Then Livesay got on the phone.
Of One Accord doesn’t provide homeless services, but Livesay knew of a few agencies in the area that might be able to help.
The first thing they did was try to raise enough money to save the RHA apartment.
The Hortons have been behind on their RHA rent since moving in after their house burned down. Their initial check for the RHA deposit and first month’s rent bounced after, unbeknownst to them, their bank withdrew funds from their account to make an overdue loan payment.
Fields said the RHA manager told her that even if the Hortons come up with the money, they will still be evicted.
Livesay then contacted the Rogersville Police Department and learned that the Hortons can’t be required to move within 30 days of the court ordered eviction, which is about 15 days old.
“It might take the full 15 days to get them out, provided the Housing Authority doesn’t step in, which they could but aren’t supposed to do,” Livesay said. “Every extra day they aren’t evicted will help.”
Livesay also contacted agencies in the region that assist the homeless, including the Clinch-Powell RD&C Council, ARCH (Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness) and Eastern Eight Community Development in Johnson City.
While the Times-News was speaking with the Hortons at the Shepherd Center Monday afternoon, Livesay received a call back from the Neighborhood Service Center of the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency, which offered to pay their first month’s rent up to $500 if they find a place — but wouldn’t be able to pay for a deposit.
When the family is put out of their RHA apartment, Livesay said the last resort will be to contact a homeless shelter looking for room for the Hortons. If that happens, Livesay said the family will be allowed to store its belongings at the Shepherd’s Center until the couple find a new home.
Livesay said he’s hoping it won’t come to that.
“We’ve only called on (the Times-News) three times in 25 years to write an article about a family in need, and each time that has brought help,” Livesay said. “It just seems like at Christmastime when a family is in distress the people in our community are so generous in helping if they just know about a need.”
He added, “Amanda has been a nurse, and she lost her job and hasn’t been able to work. They’re losing their home, and in just the past couple of weeks they lost their car so even if they were homeless tonight they wouldn’t even have a car to go out and sleep in, not that it would hold all seven of them. I’m going to believe by faith that they will have a home tonight and that will give us some time to contact some shelters or hopefully find them a permanent home.”
Livesay said anyone who would like to help the Hortons can mail a check to: “Of One Accord”, P.O. Box 207, Rogersville, TN 37857.
Livesay said to memo the check to “The Homeless Fund,” and Of One Accord will forward 100 percent of the donation to the Hortons.