Houk family housing fundraiser
The Edward Baer house is full of dreams and stories, past and present. In 1902, during the second wave of construction in the Railroad District in Ashland Oregon, it was built for Edward Baer. who married Martha “Mattie” Dosier two years later and while I haven’t found much in the way of records of their lives, I believe they were happy here. They were newlyweds in 1904. I wonder if the house spoke back then, like the way it does to us now, like when we open up the window panes and it asks a long winded question or how the creak in the front door sounds like friendly banter? I wonder if they could see the face of the blue wizard in the tile in the bathroom or if the peg that’s on the back of the bathroom door, the one makes me think of an octopus every morning, was in place yet?
This house has historical value to the city of Ashland and is listed on the register of historic places as a contributing element to the Ashland Railroad District. It’s nearly the last of its kind as a place that exists as affordable housing in the Railroad District, a cozy home for a working class family. Our youngest daughter learned how to ride a bike here, we’ve played thousands of games, the kids have begun to grow up here and the younger two go to public schools in Ashland. This house has immeasurable value to all of us-- we love it. We are scared to lose it.
My husband Jason and I have dedicated our lives to trying to help make other people’s lives better. Over the last two decades we’ve volunteered tens of thousands of hours in nonprofits and groups that helped disenfranchised people such as Northwest Seasonal Workers, a community radio station (KSKQ Community Radio), Computers 4 Kids (a nonprofit that gifted computers to low income families), Rogue Valley Metaphysical Library, Rogue Valley Independent Media Center, Save Our Schools and Playgrounds (locals will remember when Briscoe School closed, this was the group that preserved the playground there), Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice, Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon, Disabled United in Direct Empowerment, Independent Media Week. Rogue Valley Television (RVTV), Occupy Ashland, Occupy Medford, Citizens for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace Rogue Valley Chapter 156, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF-- Rogue Valley Chapter), Health Care for all Oregon, GMO Free Jackson County and published the Ashland Free Press from 2011-2012, which became the Rogue Valley Community Press. In 2014, Peace House recognized our contributions in media and gave us a Peace Award which proudly hangs on the quirky slanted wall of our bedroom in this little house, along with flyers from many events that we’ve hosted and promoted over the years.
Over the years we’ve supported our family of daughters (22, 16 and 10) with a series of cobbled together jobs, mostly paid by occasional grants and other supportive funding. Jason has decades of experience in media design work and works part time at A Street Print & Parcel as well as being a paid, part time organizer for Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice.
We've spent many years working on homeless issues and pestering city, county and state officials for better support services for our homeless friends. We've chronicled the plight of our most vulnerable people. In November 2015, we got involved with a grassroots group that provided monthly meals for homeless folks and since May 6, 2016, we've hosted a weekly meal in Railroad Park called the Friday Community Peace Meal.
We feed an average of 50-55 people each week and these dinners are a beautiful example of love in action.
We can't be edged out of Ashland. This family, this house and this community all need one another. Our dream is to raise enough money for a down payment for this house and be able to take on a mortgage to purchase it.
Update 8/7/16: We heard back from our landlord and the house will be put on the market for $360,000. We've been busy looking for rentals (like many families, we're priced out of Ashland) and any other options as we recognize that we need to adjust our dream to be more realistic. We found a small (but good) mobile home in an Ashland park for $20,000. It's a 1970 model, so financing is not available and we would need to have enough to buy it outright. As we see it, it's our best chance to stay here in Ashland and would give us long term stability.
On Saturday August 20th there will be an all day homelessness and housing forum at SOU and part of that day will include a silent auction for us as well. We are pulling more info about that as we can, but in the meantime we'd like to put a call out for donations of items that can be auctioned off (gift certificates from local businesses and/or local goods and services), white elephant gifts that you were given and wouldn't mind re-homing, artwork, etc.) And please put August 20 on your calendar, Meese Auditorium/Art building. We will include a potluck meal at 5 pm too, much like we do in Railroad Park and everyone is welcome.
If we raise money and are not able to buy this home, we would use the funds for moving expenses. Any money left over would be reinvested back into this community through our good works and actions.
We have less than 33 days to do this and we are so grateful for your help and support. Thank you!
We had another good talk with the park manager yesterday and really like her. It seems like it will all be a good fit for us, other than we will have too much stuff for 700 square feet. Yard sale coming soon! :)
Vanessa, Jason, Madison and Grace
We kind of jumped when we signed those papers yesterday because we knew we weren't finished with the fundraising, but we know we'll get it together.
Earlier today we got a call from the realtor who said that the seller accepted our offer of $19,000. The inspection will happen on Wednesday of next week and we expect that there will be some (hopefully not too major) issues that we can use to keep negotiating that price down. Our friends and community have helped us raise about $15,000. We are in the home stretch now. (Wow! When I started this I thought in my wildest dreams, maybe we could raise $1,000.)
There's a few costs that we weren't really thinking about (insurance, half of the cost of the inspection as we wrote in the contract that we wanted to spilt that with the seller rather than pay the whole cost) and escrow fees. We're checking on the insurance costs, the inspection will be $175 and escrow is $400.
We have about $150 in auction bids from the silent auction on Saturday that we'll be collecting too.
There's going to be a housewarming party in the future and you're all invited. I'm thinking about an open house style party since it's a tiny house. Thank you for your help, love and support. Thank you for reminding me that it's okay to ask for help, which is what I am constantly telling other people and needed to learn myself.
Vanessa and Jason Houk
What a crazy, wild ride this has all been. About two weeks ago we started worrying that someone else would buy the mobile and so we met with the realtor to begin the process of buying it, but that same day one of our friends told Jason about her friend's mobile and how it was about to go up for sale. We wound up leaving the office without signing any papers or putting any money down that day. Later that same night we were contacted by the guy who talked about buying the Baer house and working out a rent to own deal with us that we could manage. So we got all excited about that and then it fell through when he decided that he wouldn't make enough of a profit.
In the meantime the realtor had told us that someone else was ready to move forward on the mobile. We were still thinking that the house was a possibility, so we hit the pause button on buying the mobile right then.
When the house deal fell apart, we weren't sure what would happen, but we knew two things were true. We are supposed to live in Ashland and somehow things will work out.
In this housing market, it seems that anything selling for $20,000 that even slightly resembles a dwelling would sell fast and it certainly looked as though the mobile was gone. The first buyer couldn't come up with enough money and it fell through. Another buyer came along and they poked around and discovered a few things that the seller has to fix before it can be sold, which stalled everything and then those buyers walked away. All of that stalling held this home for us and we were able to start the process of buying it today.
We'll be getting an inspection done and can use anything that it needs to negotiate the price down farther. The realtor says she is confident the seller will approve our offer (lower than the asking price).
Two things happened that told me everything I need to know about this decision and how it's meant to be. The contract has an escrow date of August 29 (which might change depending on how quickly it can be inspected), but none of that matters because August 29th is Dylan's birthday and the day he died and it was also my Dad's birthday. Message received.
After signing the papers and leaving the deposit we drove the kids over to take a look at it and after we parked and got out of the car a squirrel ran across the driveway. We all saw it and followed and watched as he ran and hid under some bushes in front of the house. Squirrels have always been messengers for me and throughout my life I've always seen them when I was making big decisions or very big things were happening to me (when I moved to Oregon, when Dylan died and the only tiny casket they had was one that had a hand carved squirrel on it). I never picked squirrels, they picked me.
I'm not sure that we have all the money we need to move in, but I know that it will all work out and I know that we have a giant community who all came together to help make that happen. Thank you!
Dear Vanessa and family. What a rollercoaster ride indeed! Wow! And you are still in one piece, all of you! Whew! Keep us posted on how things are going ok? Love hearing from you. Peace and blessings upon your family.
I hope that you will stay in Ashland, since as you said, it is your community. I gave my contribution with that in mind, keeping you here in Ashland, where you do such great works! It is my community too, and I would like you to be able to use the money to stay here. Go for the manufactured home!!
I don't know what your beliefs are but I believe if we pray and ask God to point us in the right direction we always go where he wants and needs us to go, so I'll be praying for you and your whole family!
Best of luck to you.... a minor correction, however. The house IS listed in the NRHP... .as a contributing element of the Ashland Railroad Historic District.
warm dry, family friends, grace joy
I can only give $10.00, on August 3. I wish I could give more. My prayers and thoughts are with the Hauk family.