Repairs made to homes; two new ones to be built

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

A backhoe tractor front loader smashed the roof and walls of a three-bedroom house on Prado Street belonging to an elderly couple, who soon will have a new two-bedroom house.

"They were actually living in one of the bedrooms and living room," Freddy Cantu, spokesman for Community Action said. "The roof would leak and the kitchen's sheetrock all fell down."

Cantu said when the couple found out that they were approved for a new home, they were speechless.

Ramon Carpentier and his wife and Manuela Zamora, a widow who lives on St. Mary's Street, will soon be living in their new two-bedroom houses, thanks to Community Action's Elderly Home Program.

Both homes were demolished on Monday and Tuesday and construction on the new homes by two contractors from Alice and the Rio Grande Valley will begin next week, Cantu said.

The homes will be equipped with new central air conditioning and heating systems and an electric water heater.

The homes will be completed in about eight weeks. While construction is underway, the individuals are staying with family members.

Cantu, who heads up the rehab house program for the elderly, said the program provides repairs for older residents' homes, but of the 20-rehab applicants, two of the applicants were in dire need of new homes.

The applicants must be over the age of 62.

"They were beyond repair," he said. "We take their applications and they have to own their property, we then do an assessment of the home and see if the home is eligible for repairs because we are limited to repairs depending on the money we receive."

The housing program is funded through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Last year, Community Action received about $490,000 to assist the elderly in home repair.

Before the demolition started on Prado Street, Cantu made a last-minute inspection of the house and heard a faint cry.

"I heard a meowing and I couldn't see because it was too dark, so I got my flashlight and I saw him," Cantu said. "I heard it meow in the bathroom in one of the closets."

Cantu found a small black kitten with gray-colored eyes. He said he would take the feline to the animal shelter.

Cantu said the program will continue if the state grants continue coming in. He said while the elderly are happy to get a new home, they have mixed emotions about letting go of the old house.

Zamora watched her house get torn down Monday and was overwhelmed by emotion, Cantu said.

"The lady went to watch the demolition and she started crying because they have fond memories of their home," Cantu said. "Her children grew up in that house."