Malta — Waking up at 3 a.m. to a house filled with smoke last March, a family of five was able to get out of their Nichols Road home before it was destroyed by fire.
“The people there were all phenomenal, we were all out in the pouring rain,” said Elizabeth Millet, who lived there with her boyfriend David Johnson, Jr., her three grandchildren; John, 10, and twins Nicholas and Tyler, 7, and their two pugs.
The story didn’t end after the fire trucks and news crews drove away, however. It had just begun.
A Fighting Chance
Millet first found out about Rebuilding Together Saratoga County the next day.
“I had no idea what to expect, but she said, ‘I’m here to help you.’ They did anything and everything to help us,” said Millet.
Rebuilding Together Saratoga County was founded in 2003. It is an affiliate of the national Rebuilding Together organization.
“We’re the folks who are right there in the community working with people in need. We’re the eyes, hands, and feet on the ground to deal with needs quickly and ethically. It’s our job to help,” said Rebuilding Together Saratoga County Executive Director Michelle Larkin.
Rebuilding Together had just been notified they would be awarded the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) grant, administered by HCR’s Housing Trust Fund Corporation as part of the federal HOME program. It would provide the funds needed to help the Johnson family.
To Conquer the Complications
Paying for the house was an enormous hurdle, but not the only one they would face before moving in.
The family of five settled into a camper at Saratoga Escape Lodges and RV Resort in Greenfield Center while the home acquisition and rebuilding process began. Collections were taken up at school to provide them with clothing and other necessities.
“The whole community came together to help us. I’m like, ‘Wow!’ I’m still stunned,” said Millet.
Then, on Memorial Day, the unthinkable happened. Water ignited the camper’s electric light fixture and the family’s temporary home was again consumed by fire.
After acquiring another camper from Alpin Haus in Amsterdam, the family stayed at the campground until it closed in October while Rebuilding Together acquired a new manufactured home from Showcase Homes in Malta.
“They were rushing and rushing to get us in. Rebuilding Together Saratoga got everybody together and then everything went boom, boom, boom,” said Millet.
The family moved the camper onto their property. There was mud from the construction vehicles and frozen pipes from the cold weather, but Millet remained hopeful.
“The kids went through a lot but I’m always grateful and appreciate any-and-everything that anyone’s ever done. I said to them, ‘We can do this – never give up’,” said Millet.
Home for the Holidays
By the beginning of December, Millet and her family were able to move into their new home.
“We were ecstatic. I was in tears – it was such a big relief for me. It was so overwhelming – we were able to give the kids a Christmas. It’s just amazing! We still can’t believe we’re here,” said Millet.
Manufactured homes are an important source of affordable housing in New York. Rebuilding Together Saratoga County used approximately $95,000 in HOME Manufactured Housing Replacement funds, the remainder of which will be used to expand the supply of decent, safe, and affordable manufactured homes in the region.
“We are so pleased that the Johnson family will enjoy the holiday season in their new home after enduring such a terrible loss. By carrying out Governor Cuomo’s $20 billion housing plan, we are working to ensure all New Yorkers can have the security of a safe and affordable home. Thanks to Rebuilding Together Saratoga County for (the removal and replacement of the family’s manufactured home),” said HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas in a press release.
Rebuilding Together Saratoga County has renovated and revitalized 979 homes and 80 nonprofit centers, with the help of more than 875 volunteers who have dedicated more than 50,000 hours of their time to bring hope and a renewed sense of pride to homeowners in need throughout Saratoga County.
“It is a big deal that we were awarded this grant. Housing, to me, is one of those things – if something is broken, home sweet home doesn’t sound so sweet,” said Larkin.