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Housing program 'a godsend' for new Paducah homeowners

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

Jessica Vick and mother Tina Stewart say faith - and more than a little help from the community - has opened the door to their new home.

A prayer request brought them to their Harrison Street residence in 2010. By September, they will close on the house, which was made available to them through the Paducah Housing Authority's home ownership program. Vick paid her last rent check to the housing authority last Tuesday.

"It felt really good, considering my first mortgage payment won't be until October," Vick said.

After four years, Vick and her family have settled into the three-bedroom home. They've become part of the neighborhood, where protective residents look out for her and her autistic 11-year-old son, Nicolas. Even the family's two cats, Gary and Garfield, roam the living room like they own the place. And Nicolas' service dog, Midas, has figured out how to open most of the doors.

But not so long ago, Vick and her son had nowhere to go. Their journey to homeownership began when Vick put in a prayer request during a Sunday school class at Heartland Worship Center. Phyllis Maclin, then the vice president of Paducah Housing Services, happened to be in attendance that Sunday. She offered to show them the house on Monday, and Vick, Stewart and Nicolas were able to move in within a month.

"As a Christian, I have to say that people are amazed by how fast that worked. But I'm not," Stewart said.

Vick has paid rent on the home since December 2010, and said the amount has been applied to her down payment on the residence.

The housing authority helped repair her credit, she said, and Paducah Bank granted a $50,000 loan to Vick and Stewart for the $89,500 home.

Vick's home marks the 35th - and final - house in the program, which is now being discontinued due to lack of money, said Cal Ross, executive director of the housing authority.

"We began the program very slowly and bought many dilapidated houses and rebuilt them from scratch," he said. "We invested a lot of money in those houses and sold them for a lot less than we spent ... and as a result, people like Ms. Vick have benefited enormously."

Those benefits extend to the entire community, stabilizing and preserving neighborhoods and increasing the tax base for schools. The housing authority's program complements other area initiatives such as Habitat for Humanity and the city's Fountain Avenue Revitalization Program, Ross said.

"It's unfortunate that we can't continue to help families, but be encouraged that there are other sources," he said.

He cautioned that home ownership is not for everyone. Renters can rely on property owners to maintain and repair their units, while homeowners have to take on that responsibility themselves.

But Vick is ready for that responsibility, and more. The 29-year-old Lone Oak High School graduate just enrolled in her first semester at West Kentucky Community & Technical College. She plans to transfer to Murray State University afterward, commuting to classes for a master's in music education.

Eventually, the former pharmacy technician and clerical worker hopes to receive her doctorate and become a professor of music.

"It's definitely been a godsend," Vick said of the program.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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