Tearing the house down….

Oh the injustice! oh the madness! Where is the compassion? Reader, as I am typing this entry, I am mad…I mean hot, fuming! Smoke and heat are coming from the keyboard as I type. Perhaps I am being over dramatic but I will let you be the judge.

On Tuesday I had the privilege of attending the Fort Smith Board of the Director’s meeting. The meeting started out pretty boring, but there was one item on the agenda that left me picking my jaw off the floor. It was proposed that the Directors vote to demolish a structure. The structure was described as an eyesore and unsightly. Two of the Directors stated they received a substantial amount of complaints from concerned residents. One of the Directors actually drove to the area to get a visual of the structure. The other Director stated that he did not believe the house was salvageable and should be demolished, and this sentiment was echoed by the Director who had previously driven to the site.

As this discussion was ensuing, a timid Spanish speaking individual spoke up from the back of the room. At first her voice was so soft that the city clerk did not hear her. She stated that she did not speak English very well, but had enlisted her son to speak on her behalf because he spoke English. With all eyes in the room on him, the young man shyly walked to the podium. He looked like he had the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. He had on a plain frayed white t-shirt and jeans. He respectfully informed the assembled Directors that he was there to answer their questions.

As the rest of the story was revealed, I slowly became incensed. Apparently 6 or 7 months ago, there was a residential fire that damaged a house in Fort Smith. Since then, the owners have been trying to contact the insurance company to make a claim and repairs but they have been getting the run around. After a couple of brief questions, a motion was made to give the homeowner two weeks to rectify the situation with the insurance, fix the roof or face the demolition of their home. As more facts came out, the Director who made the motion withdrew his motion and made a new motion to give the individual thirty days. This caused a huge discussion by other Directors who felt that 15 days would suffice, while others just flat refused because they did not believe the structure to be salvageable.

It was further revealed that the homeowner and her lawyer had been in contact with a city representative. The City Representative was fully apprised and aware of what was going on with this structure and was working with the homeowner to rectify the situation. It also quickly became evident that the Directors had not gotten in touch with him to acquire additional information (one quick phone call or email would have sufficed). They were simply ready to demolish someone’s house based on complaints and no additional information. In the end, at one of the Director’s behest, the Directors (with the exception of one) voted to give the young man and his mother thirty days to get the situation taken care of or face the demolition of their house.

As I silently sat there, I became enraged. My dear reader, if your dwelling were to burn today and the insurance were to dig their heels in, do you have extra cash lying around that would enable you to pay for a new roof within two weeks, much less thirty days? I looked at the Directors, with their well groomed beards, nicely done hair, suits, ties and nice and expensive looking clothing. I realized that they probably had nice vehicles to transport them to their nice garages, where they could enter their nice warm houses and sleep on their nice beds covered with their nice 300 thread count sheets. I blinked back my tears as I stared at the back of the young man in his thin, frayed white cotton t-shirt and saw the disconnect. I wondered how he and his mother got to the meeting that night, and I wondered where they were staying now. More importantly, I wondered where he would lay his head that night.

Now I pose this question to you gentle reader, is it a wonder or a surprise that my head is still reeling five days later? If you were in that young man’s shoes would you have wanted the Directors to make the same decisions or perhaps dig for a little more information? Where is the diligence? Where is the compassion?

“foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.” – Jesus

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