Knoxville woman stuck in long waiting list for assistance

Knoxville woman stuck in long waiting list for assistance to buy water heater

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Deborah Bailey heats water on her stove, just like her great grandmother used to do it, she says. Deborah Bailey heats water on her stove, just like her great grandmother used to do it, she says.
"I just have to go back to the primitive ways of doing things," Deborah Bailey said. "I just have to go back to the primitive ways of doing things," Deborah Bailey said.
"I have a limited budget and how am I going to get all these things done?" Deborah Bailey asked. "I have a limited budget and how am I going to get all these things done?" Deborah Bailey asked.
"It's very hard. It's very hard for low-income families, it's very hard for seniors," said CAC Director Barbara Kelly. "It's very hard. It's very hard for low-income families, it's very hard for seniors," said CAC Director Barbara Kelly.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Money for a home repair program has been slashed and a waiting list has been added. 

The Community Action Committee (CAC) has assisted thousands of qualified low income people in Knoxville to improve their living conditions through federally-funded community development block grants.

But in recent years, housing and energy services have faced drastic cuts as Washington tightens its fiscal belt.

There is a waiting list today for those who qualify under some programs. 

Even though she has a modern kitchen, Deborah Bailey has to prepare water for her bath the old fashion way.

Every day she draws cold water from her kitchen sink and fills up a pot. She then heats the water on her stove, just like her great grandmother used to do it, she says.

Bailey has to do this because her old water heater quit working several weeks ago.

"I just have to go back to the primitive ways of doing things," she said.

Bailey took 6 On Your Side into the crawl space below her home to see the faulty water heater.

A repairman has been out twice recently to work on it. During his last visit, he told Bailey the 40- gallon low boy tank can not be repaired. It will have to be replaced.

"It is just sad not to have any hot water when you are used to doing things," she said. "It is so new to me, and I have a limited budget and how am I going to get all these things done?"

Bailey is single with no children. She holds down a part time job, but at 59 years old she can't find full time employment.

She went to the Knoxville/Knox County CAC Housing and Energy Services Office hoping there would be assistance for a new hot water heater.

She qualified for the program, but has been put on a long waiting list.

"They was, like, there is nothing we can do. You are number 200. I said, 'Well, okay,'" she said with a sigh.

"It's very hard. It's very hard for low-income families, it's very hard for seniors," said CAC Director Barbara Kelly.

Kelly says money funneled through the Housing and Energy Office started running short a few years ago.

"Over the last few years the funding, primarily from federal sources, has been systematically reduced," Kelly said.

The money has been reduced even more so with the sequester of federal funding that took place earlier this year, Kelly added.

"So the need for these programs like home repair, weatherization, are just not available to meet the total need or even a significant portion of that need," Kelly said.

"I've had estimates from Lowe's, Home Depot, and the cheapest at Knoxville Salvage for $249," Bailey said about buying a new water heater.

She says she doesn't have enough money in savings right now to pay for a heater and installation.

So for the time being, the burner on the stove and a pot full of water will be her only means of hot water.

Getting through the waiting list will take a long time.

"If you were number 200 on the waiting list, it would be unlikely you would be served in this program year," Kelly said. "So we would be talking about at least a year from now."

Learning she may have to wait a year is disappointing to Bailey, and while getting used to cold baths is not easy, she hopes to have extra money in her savings account by the fall.

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