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  • Writer's pictureNeighborLink Indianapolis

43 Years and Counting

Imagine being eighteen years old, freshly graduated from high school and being handed the keys to your own home. The elation! The freedom! Ms. Toliver was that eighteen year old 43 years ago. It had been her grandparents home originally. Unfortunately, they passed at an early age and the home was left vacant for a little while. Toliver’s father maintained the yard and kept up the house to keep it in good order, but no one lived there until Toliver came of age. At that point, she asked if she could take on the house as her own and her father gladly handed it to her with one caveat. “You have to clean it up and take care of it.”

Toliver quickly learned the meaning of responsibility when it came to homeownership. She kept up the yard, maintained the home to the best of her abilities, but she also was working full time. Up until last year, she had worked at FedEx since the early 90’s and had the heavy responsibility of being a control room agent for the last 20 of those years. Leisure time at home had not been something she had for many years.

Her home has held her life, her ups - like raising her son, and her downs. She knows her neighbors, many of whom have lived next door and near her for decades of their own.

“My neighbor across the street is my go-to-guy. He takes care of me and looks after me since he knows it’s just me.”

It doesn’t take long in a conversation to understand how much appreciation Ms. Toliver has for her home. Which makes it easy to comprehend her distress when she received notice of a series of public health citations for her home.

“I’ve been here since 1978, I’ve taken care of it by myself. I redid the roof,” states Toliver. “I do what I can with the income and small savings I have. Why now? Why am I receiving these?”

She suspects it has something to do with the sudden influx of interest in developers and investors in her area. She’s receiving a barrage of messages asking to buy her home and she’s not interested. Not one bit.

“My home is my life. This is all I know, this is all I have and all I own besides my car,” says Ms. Toliver. “This is where I hope to live the rest of my days.”

Toliver began by calling for estimates on the work that needed to be completed, but even when she could get a contractor to come to the house (it was in December) the estimates coming in were so great, there was absolutely no way she could cover the cost. She was becoming so stressed over the thought of incurring the proposed fines which were just as out of reach as the estimates she was receiving. The thought of losing her home over this was devastating.

She called the Marion County Public Health Department asking for an extension at worst and leniency at best. They did her one better by referring her to NeighborLink Indianapolis.

“I called and left a message. The very next day, NeighborLink Indianapolis called me back and the day after that they had someone out to look at the house. I couldn’t believe it!” Toliver felt bad when our Director of Client Services, Tom Miller, had troubles with her front step. Like many old houses the steps are large concrete things without handrails or any supports to help someone with mobility issues. A handrail was immediately added to the list of needs and happened to be the first thing that was taken care of.

Since then, a group of volunteers came out and took care of her windows that had been cited, cleaning up the old plastic coverings, extracting staples and painting the wood frames. Another took on the tuck pointing and repairs to her foundation. Next up, NeighborLink Indianapolis will be back to tackle her gutters. Thankfully most of it is cleaning, tightening and securing areas. No need for a full replacement.

If you have any interest in volunteering to help homeowners like Ms. Toliver, we’ve got plenty of projects to sign up for! Interested in more handy projects or interested in learning more handy skills? Let us know. It all starts on our volunteer page. If you find your finances are freer than your time, donate to help homeowners like Ms. Toliver have repairs taken care of and the ability to remain in their beloved home for as long as they like.

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