Back in September 2016, Cheryl Adams was in a real bind.
Due to delayed maintenance and then the shaking from the August 2014 earthquake, this senior citizen’s Napa home needed repairs. But living primarily on Social Security, Adams had no extra funds to pay for renovations.
With her mortgage eating up more than half of her monthly income, money was extremely tight.
The situation hadn’t always been so dire. Adams once shared the house with her husband and son. All three were working.
But in 2009, her husband passed away. Her son was laid off work for a time. Adams herself struggled with health problems.
Meanwhile, her house was slowly deteriorating around her.
Built in the 1950s, the home’s single bathroom needed repairs. After the 2014 quake, one exterior brick wall was especially precarious. Doors and windows didn’t close properly. Adams was worried the home’s foundation and overall structure was damaged.
She fell behind in her mortgage payments.
“I was really close to foreclosure. We had used all of our savings,” she said. “We were almost out the door.”
After being profiled in a September 2016 story in the Napa Valley Register, members of Adams’ church – Grace Church of Napa Valley — stepped forward.
During a work day, volunteers descended as a group and completed the most urgent repairs, she said. The damaged brick wall was removed. Some doors and windows were replaced.
Now that a certain number of years have passed since a bankruptcy filing, her credit score is back up – to 750, she said proudly. “All my house payments are on time,” she said.
She recently applied for and received store credit such as a Kohl’s card. “Just to establish some credit — not to start charging up again,” she said.
Even more significantly, Adams also received a temporary reduction in her mortgage. At one point, it was as high as $1,438 a month. Today, the payment is down to $840.
That decrease gave her some breathing room.
“It’s a huge step forward,” she said.
However, Adams, 68, isn’t out of the woods yet.
The mortgage payment reduction is good only for the next two to four years, she said.
“It’s a not a fixed solution. I’m going to have to fight all over again” when the modification ends.
Other opportunities haven’t always worked out.
After the Register story about her, Adams said a social services worker came to visit her and share information about other resources.
Adams appreciated the advice, but ultimately, she wasn’t sure what programs she could take advantage of or be eligible for.
She said she tried to visit a food bank in Napa but was rebuffed. Something about forms or registration, she said. It was confusing, said Adams. She didn’t go back.
A Napa Valley Community Housing program called the Home Sharing Match-Up Program that pairs seniors with extra space in their homes with those who want to rent a room isn’t a good fit, she said. Her one bathroom is too run down. Her extra bedroom needs renovating.
“It would need paint, a bed,” she said. The house is too small. “It would be uncomfortable” for the tenant or for herself and her son, she said.
Adams said that after the 2016 Napa Valley Register story ran, “I was kind of embarrassed by it.”
She said she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her. She didn’t do the interview to get sympathy or handouts.
But at the time, “I was really suffering.”
Today, Adams continues to face obstacles.
“I have zero savings,” she said.
Last week, she had to pay a plumber $300 to fix her toilet. Recently, she had two teeth pulled because she couldn’t afford to do necessary dental work.
“They were back teeth,” she said. “Nothing I absolutely had to have.” Having the problem teeth removed “is cheaper than to try and get them fixed,” she said.
In the coming weeks, Adams needs to have shoulder surgery. She’s covered by Medicare and uses Kaiser medical services, but that surgery is another hurdle to overcome.
While her church came to her rescue when she needed them the most, Adams knows she can’t depend solely on such help.
“They’re not there to give money away. They can get you on your feet but then you’ve got to learn how to walk.”
Regardless of the obstacles, Adams remains determined to stay in her home.
“You just have to be thankful. Life moves on. It’s not going to be ‘easy time’ for anybody.”
She has her house “and that’s the most important thing.”