Five days a week, eight hours a day, Karen Chaney stands at a Walmart cash register, working a full-time job at 67 to make sure she can stay above water financially and keep her East Oakland house.
“It’s hard,” Chaney said as she sat on her living room sofa on a recent day off. “I come home every night and have to take hot Epsom salt baths because my body hurts so bad.”
Things could have been much worse for Chaney. In fact, they almost were until The Chronicle’s Season of Sharing helped her keep her home, which is festooned with photos of her two daughters, granddaughter and, over the fireplace, a black-and-white graduation picture from Oakland’s Castlemont High.
That photo depicts Chaney’s sister, Glenda Hammonds, who died in September 2013. Hammonds had lived in the house for 30 years and bequeathed it to Chaney, a blessing that the retiree nearly lost.
Chaney also inherited two mortgages, which she was able to pay despite a “very fixed” income from Social Security and retiree benefits from the city of Berkeley.
That is, until early in 2018. Those mortgages had adjustable rates and shot up by a combined $509, an increase that Chaney struggled to pay.
“I was maintaining, and I was able to do it until I got to where I was juggling,” she said. “One month I would pay my first and then my utilities and stuff, and the next month I would pay the second and utilities.”
The bank finally told her that was inadequate.
“They caught up with me,” Chaney said, “and it came to a head.”
That meant default notices and a likely foreclosure, which devastated a woman who knew all too well the perils of trying to find housing in the Bay Area on a limited income.
Chaney spent the final six years of her career with the city of Berkeley working for the housing authority, dealing with individuals and families who needed public housing or Section 8 assistance. The thought of losing her own home gave Chaney an ache that Epsom salt could not have cured.
“My daughters, I probably could have lived with them, but to me I was still going to be homeless,” she said, “and I did not want to lose my sister’s house after she had been here for 30 years and she left it for me. I never would have been able to afford a house.”
A friend who was seeking money for a down payment on a house told Chaney about Season of Sharing, which provides one-time funds to people in unexpected crises. She phoned and left a message, later getting a call back telling her to bring her paperwork to Alameda County Social Services, which helps administer the fund within the county.
It took time to sort through her application.
Cristina Johnson, a specialist for the social services agency, was moved by Chaney’s story.
“I was motivated to help her because she was on the brink of losing her home,” Johnson said. “With the rising housing prices it would have been very difficult for her to be housed if she lost her inherited property.”
One day, over the summer, Chaney was lying on her sofa when the phone rang.
“It was Season of Sharing,” Chaney said, “and they told me that they had some good news for me, that I was chosen by them to help pay my mortgage, and they were going to help pay my first and the second.”
Season of Sharing helped her by providing assistance that brought her current on both mortgages.
Chaney started crying into the phone. She cried just talking about it.
“It’s been a blessing ever since because, oh my God, they helped me from being out in the streets,” she said.
“I’m fine,” she said. “I’m back on track.”
Chaney still has to pay the adjusted mortgages of nearly $1,400 a month. She also is paying down a $4,000 property tax bill she received because the taxes she was paying through her bank’s escrow account were not adjusted to cover an increase that was levied after her sister died and the property was reassessed.
“I just didn’t want to get caught anymore,” she said. “I needed to go to work.”
When her workday is done, Chaney returns home — to her home — which The Chronicle’s Season of Sharing helped her save.
Read the original article at: https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Season-of-Sharing-She-inherited-a-house-then-13436015.php?utm_campaign=2017&utm_source=1stcollection&utm_medium=sfgatesospage#photo-16582342
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