Partners Come Together to Help Disabled Teen
A partnership project to rehabilitate a home for a disabled teenager in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood is nearing completion. Once all repairs and improvements are made, the home will be handicapped accessible and a more safe and secure dwelling for her and her family.
Sandra Evans has been the sole guardian of her two nieces since their mother died in 2006. The youngest, De'zoniaey, 13, has been severely disabled since birth. She is unable to talk or get out of bed without assistance and requires 24-hour care. However, the home she and her family had been living in was not handicapped accessible. It could not accommodate a lift that would allow her aunt to move De’zoniaey to a wheelchair, leaving the child confined to her bed for five years.
“The things that most of us take for granted like going outside, taking a bath or shower, or even breathing fresh air – these had been impossible for De’zoniaey,” said City of Melbourne’s Housing & Urban Improvement Division Manager Denise Carter. “One of the caretakers said to me and the Housing Rehabilitation Specialist, ‘many people walk through Ms. Evans home and say that they will be back to help her, but they never return,’ so we were compelled and challenged to find a way to help her family.”
After the family’s housing accessibility conditions were brought to the attention of Denise and her team at the City’s Housing and Urban Improvement Division, they looked for ways to partner with other agencies and businesses to make the project a reality. In December 2016, the Fair Housing Continuum provided a matching grant of $24,999, which was combined with a grant from the City of Melbourne for $24,999 to fund the renovations needed to transform the home into a space that improves safety, accessibility and quality of life for the family.
Renovations include expanding De’zoniaey’s bedroom so that medical supplies and equipment can be stored in her room and she can be lifted on a Hoyer Lift to an accessible location in the home. The porch in the front of her home is being extended so De’zoniaey can get out of bed and experience the outdoors. A back-up generator is also being installed to ensure that De'zoniaey will not be without the oxygen she requires 24 hours a day.
The team is also making other structural repairs, renovations and safety improvements that had also become necessary in the home, including installing hurricane shutters and replacing torn window screens. The home’s damaged vinyl siding was removed, and the exterior was coated with stucco to provide better protection.
A variety of partners joined with the City of Melbourne to make the project possible. The Community Development Block Grant Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program, funded the state-provided matching grant. The Fair Housing Continuum matched the federal and state grant using a special funding source. Sorensen Moving & Storage moved furniture for the family, and American Constructors & Renovators Inc. is working as the general contractor on the project. Thirty volunteers from Spectrum painted and landscaped the home through Spectrum’s partnership with Rebuild Central Florida Together program on May 20, and Texas Roadhouse in Melbourne sponsored the lunch for the volunteers. Spectrum also distributed 150 Safe and Healthy Home kits at Carver Park Community Center on May 20 as part of the effort to help the community.
“We appreciate the public-private collaboration efforts that came together to help this family,” Carter said.