Every day for the past several years, Thomas Simond and his wife Betty had an unsettling feeling. Would they be allowed to stay in their home in northwest Detroit that they’ve been in since 1971? If not, where would they go, at this late stage in their lives?
They dreaded checking their mailbox, afraid that another warning letter had arrived. Or worse yet, that the warning had become a foreclosure notice because of the back property taxes they owed.
The Simonds started to fall behind on their property taxes about 15 years ago. Major repairs on the home and other unexpected bills eroded their savings and strained their fixed and limited income. To pay the accumulating property taxes, they got on an installment plan.
“We pinched pennies wherever we could to try to make the payments, but we just didn’t have the money to make ends meet,” Thomas said.
The chronic anxiety took a toll on their health. Thomas is 87. Betty is 84.
“I suffered two heart attacks in the last few years, and I feel it was stress-related,” Thomas said.
Last year, Thomas had heart surgery to implant two stints. He currently receives dialysis. Thomas goes to the VA for many of his medical needs. He is a veteran of the Korean War, having served in an Army tank company. At the VA, Thomas spoke to a counselor about his property tax issues. The counselor suggested that Thomas contact Southwest Solutions for help.
The Simonds have been working with Kathy Ralston, Home Preservation Coach at Southwest Solutions. Kathy is helping them to apply for the Property Tax Exemption offered to Detroit homeowners struggling to pay their bill for the current year because of financial hardship. Kathy also recommended the couple for a special opportunity available through a recent grant from American House Foundation to help veterans in need that Southwest Solutions is assisting. The American House Foundation approved using the grant to pay off the back property taxes for the Simonds as well as another veteran in a similar situation. The total that Thomas and Betty owed was $6,700. Kathy called Thomas with the good news.
“After Kathy’s call, I jumped and screamed with joy,” Thomas said. “I told Betty that our prayers are answered. We are so grateful to the American House Foundation. God bless them. This relieves a lot of our worries. We can breathe easier, and we feel this adds years to our lives.”
“When the American House Foundation was founded eleven years ago by Bob and Rob Gillette it was for exactly this reason, to help seniors who are often over looked maintain dignity as they grow older,” said Holly Ellis, Executive Director of The American House Foundation. “We are thrilled to have a partnership with Southwest Solutions and be able to have a true impact on the lives of seniors in need.”
The Simonds have been the sole occupants of the home since it was built nearly 50 years ago. They paid off the mortgage in 1990 after Thomas retired. He had worked as a mechanic for Sun Oil Company for 27 years. The home is filled with shared memories of raising a family and a lifetime together.
“We couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” Thomas said. “This is where we belong.”